Gingrich Decries Romney's Tactics on Eve of Florida Vote

Gingrich Decries Romney's Tactics on Eve of Florida Vote

By Scott Conroy - January 31, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A day before Florida Republicans head to the polls -- at least those who have not already cast their ballots in early voting -- Newt Gingrich spent much of his time here explaining away Mitt Romney's rise in the polls rather than focusing on his own closing message.

Though he cited recent surveys showing a lessening gap between himself and the front-runner -- telling supporters, “I think we absolutely can win” -- Gingrich more often sounded like someone explaining away his likely defeat rather than rallying the troops to victory.

He repeatedly made reference to Romney’s well-financed barrage of attack ads that have blanketed the airwaves here and said that the former Massachusetts governor was running a “pathetic” campaign.

“You want to know where all the ads came from that you’ve been watching for the last couple of weeks? That’s your money recycled through Goldman Sachs to Mitt Romney to tell you a bunch of falsehoods, and I don’t use that word lightly,” he said. “I don’t think you should run for president unless you’re prepared to tell the truth.”

After falling far behind schedule earlier in the day, Gingrich’s airport rally here under the warm Florida sun began more than an hour-and-a-half late. During the wait, an introductory speaker told the crowd that the former speaker had arrived on site but was waiting for “a very special guest” before beginning the event.

That guest turned out to be Herman Cain, who endorsed Gingrich on Saturday night.

“For those of you who may not know me, you’ve been living in a cave,” Cain told the crowd before delivering brief remarks in praise of Gingrich and then hopping on a plane to New York to appear on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Monday night.

Former President Ronald Reagan’s son Michael took the stage on the candidate’s behalf after Cain spoke, and Gingrich later cited both media personalities’ endorsements as evidence of his campaign’s grass-roots strength.

He also touted the backing he has received from Todd Palin, who he said had agreed “to do calls for us and to campaign for us.” (A Gingrich spokesman told RCP that the former First Gentleman of Alaska has recorded a robo-call on Gingrich’s behalf.)

Gingrich appeared to be somewhat drained on stage, speaking with a slow cadence and lacking the energetic punch that placed an exclamation point on his rallies following his double-digit victory in South Carolina nine days ago.

The former Georgia congressman did receive robust responses from the crowd when he railed against President Obama’s “assault on Christianity,” though he appeared most focused on decrying Romney campaign’s tactics.

Gingrich noted that the Wall Street Journal and National Review had each described Romney’s ads against him as false, and he did not hold back in his assessment of the former governor’s character.

“What a pathetic situation to be running for the president of the United States with nothing positive to say for yourself,” he said of his opponent. “And all you’ve got to do is to try to tear your opponents down so they get to be smaller than you are. And that’s the Romney model.”

Despite an electoral map that may become even more challenging for him after the Florida primary, Gingrich appeared to be in no mood to slow down.

After vowing over the weekend to continue his campaign all the way to the Republican convention in Tampa, Gingrich worked to sharpen his negative message against Romney to an even finer point.

“I’m a genuine conservative, and I actually study these things,” Gingrich said in Fort Myers. “I’m going to be upfront. I’m not a manager, I’m a leader.” 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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