Appearing on three of the American Sunday morning talk shows, former House speaker Newt Gingrich vehemently criticized his foremost contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, accusing his rival of saying things that are “factually false” and tearing down “whoever he’s running against.”
Despite a blistering array of negative television advertisements against him, Gingrich said he was still confident of victory in Florida which votes to elect a candidate on Tuesday.
“I think it’s highly likely that we’re going to win Florida,” he told CBS News’ Face the Nation, “because I think when people understand how many different times [Romney] said things that aren’t true, his credibility is going to just frankly just collapse.”
Polls have been extremely volatile in the Sunshine State over the past couple of weeks. Gingrich enjoyed a solid lead over Romney after his South Carolina win last week but the Romney campaign’s attacks appear to have an effect. Gingrich admitted as much on ABC News’ This Week where he pointed out that it was only in the areas where “Romney carpet bombs with Wall Street money” to run television commercials against him that his popularity eroded.
“The conservatives clearly are rejecting Romney,” he said on the same program. The former Massachusetts governor may take all of Florida’s fifty delegates next week but many of the caucuses and primaries that are next in line elect delegates on a proportional basis, raising the possibility of neither candidate securing a majority before the nominating convention in August.
“He’s not going to be anywhere near a majority by April,” Gingrich predicted, by which point 32 states will have caucused or voted in a primary. “This is going to go on all the way to the convention.”
Gingrich has characterized Romney as a “timid Massachusetts moderate” and called him a “liberal” this weekend. As a northeastern governor, Romney enacted a health-care reform measure that was very similar to the Democrats’ 2010 reform effort. he also changed his views on abortion.
Establishment conservatives have questioned Gingrich’s own conservative credentials however, pointing out that Gingrich, too, supported an individual mandate in health care before conservatives were against it. As recently as last summer, he rejected plans to privatize federal health support for retirees as “right-wing social engineering.”
On This Week, Gingrich tried to convince voters that at least he was more conservative than Romney.
My hope is that gradually conservatives will come together and decide that a Newt Gingrich conservatism is dramatically better than Mitt Romney’s liberalism.
On Fox News Sunday, he reached out to likely Rick Santorum voters. “Romney beats me as long as we split the conservative vote,” he said. If the former Pennsylvania senator, who would gather 12 to 15 percent of the vote in Florida, drop outs, Gingrich hopes to stage another victory in the South.
Santorum has shown no intention of leaving the race. Instead, on ABC News last week, he described Gingrich as an “erratic conservative” and a “very high risk candidate” who could dash Republican hopes of winning back the White House.
NBC News’ political director Chuck Todd wondered on Meet the Press whether Gingrich indeed stood to gain from a Santorum exit. “They’ve made Gingrich so unelectable to some conservatives,” he said about the Romney team, “that if you get rid of the Santorum vote and factor in the second choice” in an NBC/Marist poll that was released on Sunday, “Romney’s lead actually grows by a point. So this idea that somehow conservatives are splitting the vote — not anymore.”