In Florida yesterday, Mitt Romney rolled out some new, aggressive attacks on Newt Gingrich:
“We’re not choosing a talk show host,” Romney said, alluding to his rival’s strong debate performances that helped shift momentum in his favor in South Carolina. “We’re choosing the person who should be leader of the free world.” …
“At the end of four years as speaker of the House, it was proven that he was a failed leader,” Romney said. “He had to resign in disgrace. I don’t know whether you knew that.… His fellow Republicans – 88 percent of his Republicans – voted to reprimand Speaker Gingrich. He has not had a record of successful leadership.”
Back in Iowa, Romney kept his hands clean for the most part, letting his Super PAC and an occasional campaign surrogate do the mud-slinging against Newt. This marks the first time Romney has personally taken such direct shots at Gingrich on the campaign trail. According to Politico, this is part of a massive, $10 million Romney campaign assault on Gingrich, which will attack the former speaker’s character, lack of leadership skills, and negative reputation with his former colleagues on the Hill:
Hitting Gingrich on the issue of character as “an issue, not a subtext,” a top adviser said. This will include direct references to Gingrich’s ethics troubles in the 1990s, his work for Freddie Mac in recent years and his erratic past. The dirty work of hitting Gingrich on marriages will most likely come from surrogates, not Romney. “Character is a big part of leadership,” Romney said on Fox News Sunday.
Gingrich’s susceptibility to negative attacks was highlighted in Iowa. Weeks of ads blasting his lack of conservative credentials and work with Freddie Mac wore away at his poll numbers significantly. But because his surge came so suddenly in South Carolina, the Romney campaign did not have a chance to make a similar case against him in the state. Clearly, they’re not going to let themselves miss the same opportunity in Florida.