Gingrich, Santorum Fail to Practice Fiscal Responsibility They Preached

GOP presidential candidates failed to balance campaign budgets.

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 Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign pitch that he'd have been the best leader to crack down on federal spending and balancing the budget was belied by recent campaign finance reports that showed his presidential bid ended with him wallowing in nearly $5 million of debt. The report also showed the candidate with about $800,000 in cash.

As recently as April 13, smack in the middle of the reporting period covered by the monthly Federal Election Commission report showing the outstanding debt, Gingrich was slamming President Obama's fiscal record.

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"He continues to operate with a left wing worldview that will hurt seniors, kill jobs, raise gas prices, and increase our crushing debt," Gingrich posted on Facebook. "Creating jobs and getting back to 4 percent unemployment is the most important step to a balanced budget."

While on the campaign trail, Gingrich often touted that he had helped pass a balanced budget during his time as House speaker in the mid-'90s. His Facebook post also outlined six steps he would take to improve the economy, including "enforce the fiscal responsibility Americans deserve, control spending, and implement money saving reforms and replace destructive policies and agencies with new approaches."

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise Gingrich's campaign ran up the tab--largely on security and advertising--considering the first bump his campaign encountered was the revelation he and his wife, Callista, owed up to $500,000 to Tiffany and Co. in the form of a revolving credit account. Gingrich can continue to fundraise to pay off the debt, he could pay it off out of pocket (not common) or he could try and negotiate with vendors who he owes a lower amount.

But Gingrich wasn't the only Republican presidential candidate touting fiscally conservative bona fides while not actually practicing what he preached--Rick Santorum's campaign ended in debt about $2.3 million, with about $1 million in cash, according to his latest campaign finance report.

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Danny Hayes, political science professor at American University, says for the most part, things like campaign debt don't undermine candidates with voters.

"If you ask people what their list of priorities for the ideal politician not being in campaign debt is not very high on the list," he says. "These kinds of things just aren't that salient to people outside of the beltway. I don't think it's a huge deal. You can find politicians across party, across ideology who have gone into campaign debt for various reasons."

Hillary Clinton, for example, ended her presidential bid more than $22 million in debt, after raising nearly $229 million through the course of her campaign.

On the flip side, two candidates still angling for the nomination--Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who has pulled back from actively campaigning--show no debt on the books.

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Romney had about $9 million in cash at the end of April and Paul reported about $2.5 million.

In the overall money race, Romney vastly out-fundraised his competition, receiving about $98 million for his campaign until the end of April. Paul was second with $38 million, Gingrich raised about $23 million, and Santorum about $22 million throughout the course of their entire campaigns, according to the FEC reports. Both Gingrich and Santorum are also likely hoping Romney, as their party's standard-bearer, will help them raise funds in order to erase their debts in exchange for their active support of him. Obama crafted a similar relationship with Hillary Clinton, who still is working on paying off her 2008 presidential campaign debts.

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.

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