Romney opens fire on rival Gingrich

TAMPA, Florida Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:01pm EST

Republican candidate for U.S. president and former Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign appearance at Conchita Foods Inc. in Miami, Florida November 29, 2011.     REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Republican candidate for U.S. president and former Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign appearance at Conchita Foods Inc. in Miami, Florida November 29, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Skipper

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TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - Mitt Romney opened fire on surging rival Newt Gingrich on Tuesday, calling him a "lifelong politician" who lacks credibility on how the economy works.

Romney launched his strongest attack to date on the former House of Representatives speaker, who has been gaining ground in polls of Republican voters as the main anti-Romney conservative alternative in the race to determine who will run against President Barack Obama's re-election bid in 2012.

The former governor of Massachusetts, who ran private equity and leveraged buyout firm Bain Capital before going into politics, called Gingrich a typical product of Washington.

"I think to get President Obama out of office, you're going to have to bring something to the race that's different than what he brings. He's a lifelong politician. I think you have to have the credibility of understanding how the economy works. And I do. And that's one reason I'm in this race," Romney said in an interview that aired on Fox News on Tuesday.

Gingrich is perhaps Romney's biggest obstacle to the 2012 Republican presidential nomination after other opponents like Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann have faded.

Romney is facing criticism by Gingrich and Democrats that he has switched positions on key issues for political gain.

Seeking to take advantage of this criticism of Romney, Gingrich told WSC radio while campaigning in South Carolina on Monday: "I wouldn't lie to the American people. I wouldn't switch my positions for political reasons."

The charge that Romney has flip-flopped on major issues dogged him during his 2008 presidential campaign. It is one factor in why Romney is having trouble attracting conservatives who worry he is too moderate for their tastes.

FIRM ON HEALTHCARE

An example they cite is the healthcare plan he developed for Massachusetts that Obama has said was a model for the U.S. overhaul he pushed through Congress in 2010.

Romney told Fox his continued support for the Massachusetts plan is a sign he is not a political shape-shifter.

"I'm standing by what I did in Massachusetts. I'm not trying to dust it aside. I'm absolutely firm that it was the right thing for our state," he said. "I'll defend that and I understand it has political implications. And if it keeps me from winning a primary, so be it."

Romney swept through Florida, whose January 31 primary election could play a conclusive role in determining which Republican wins the party's nomination to face Obama in next November's presidential election.

On a visit to Miami, Romney picked up the endorsement of three Cuban-American leaders, which could bolster his support among the party's conservative and Hispanic voters. They are Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart and former Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

At that event, Romney was pressed by reporters for a response to a high-profile Democratic ad unveiled on Monday that accused him of flip-flopping.

"Bring it on," Romney said. "We're ready for them."

In Tampa, Romney toured the port and accused Obama of stalling trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

The deals, finally approved in October, had been proposed by Republican President George W. Bush but were caught up in partisan wrangling for years. Labor groups had fought them over concerns U.S. jobs would be shipped overseas.

"President Obama put those agreements on hold," Romney said. "Because there were people that supported President Obama who wanted those agreements to be either shelved or slowed down. So trade was used as a political feature, as opposed to something that could create jobs."

Obama's re-election campaign was quick to respond.

Spokeswoman Kara Carscaden said Obama negotiated "smart, fair trade agreements" and "will not sign trade agreements just to sign agreements and will only agree to trade deals that increase jobs and exports for Americans."

Romney is paying most of his attention to winning New Hampshire's January 10 primary but has an active campaign in Iowa, whose caucuses start the nominating process on January 3. He is hoping a win in New Hampshire will catapult him to a strong finish in South Carolina on January 21 and a victory in Florida.

(Additional reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami; Editing by John O'Callaghan and Anthony Boadle)

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Comments (9)
TexanForever wrote:
Let’s get real here! Not only is Newt a lifelong politican, he is also a totally disgraced one – only Speaker ever convicted of ethic violation and fined. He is also, as of now, a thrice married man – not a real reason to criticize him – but he couldn’t keep it in his pants until his wife either got out of the hospital or the divorce was at least filed. Not too pretty of a picture for the Most Powerful Man in the World!!!

Nov 29, 2011 10:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
sothatsit wrote:
So Romney feels Newt has no street cred? lol..lets take a look at Romneys “cred” as governor for a while in Massachusetts, his ONLY street cred,lol
Romney supported raising various fees by more than $300 million, including those for driver’s licenses, marriage licenses, and gun licenses. Romney increased a special gasoline retailer fee by 2 cents per gallon, opponents said fees imposed a hardship on those who could least afford them. Romney also closed tax loopholes that brought in another $181 million from businesses over the next two years and over $300 million for his term. These initial loophole actions, in the face of conservative and corporate critics that considered them tax increases, won plaudits from legislators as an example of political courage. The state legislature, with Romney’s support, also cut spending by $1.6 billion, including $700 million in reductions in state aid to cities and towns. The cuts also included a $140 million reduction in state funding for higher education, which led state-run colleges and universities to increase tuition by 63 percent over four years. Property taxes had to be raised 4%. After the previous decade’s failed “Hillarycare” proposal, Romney formed a team of consultants from different political backgrounds that beginning in late 2004 came up with a set of innovative proposals that incorporated a new payroll tax. In particular, Romney successfully pushed for incorporating an “individual mandate”. Republican? Mr Romney apparently never met a “tax increase” he didnt like…The most LIBERAL MORMON BISHOP in the UNIVERSE! Oh, nice interview on FOX tonight Mitt, you give new meaming to the word lie..deny..lie…deny..lie…deny..PATHETIC! You couldnt carry Newts bags!

Nov 29, 2011 10:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Sensibility wrote:
This is good news. Yesterday Newt bashed Mitt. Today, Mitt is bashing Newt. This is a good development because it means the GOP primary is starting to coalesce around two strong candidates – who are also the front runners. The marginal candidates are being forced or ignored out of the race before the primaries even take place. Whoever wins – Newt or Mitt – can and should beat Obama in November, and that is a very good thing.

Nov 29, 2011 10:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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