1 of 2 | Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich speaks at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami on January 27, 2012. UPI/Michael Bush | License Photo
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Conservatives are getting more involved in the Republican U.S. presidential nomination race but they aren't flocking to Mitt Romney, rival Newt Gingrich said.
"The conservatives clearly are rejecting Romney. He is nowhere near getting a majority," Gingrich said Sunday on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "And the fact is, once you get beyond Florida, these are all proportional representation states, and he's not going to be anywhere near a majority by April."
Florida's primary is Tuesday, and Gingrich used several Sunday talk show appearances to plead his case and criticize Romney for running "a campaign of vilification" against him as he questioned the former Massachusetts governor's business acumen.
Gingrich, a former House speaker, said on the ABC news program that, even though polls indicate Romney has the lead going into the Florida primary, when his percentage of support is combined with conservative former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, "the conservative combined would clearly beat Romney."
"Well, I'm saying, first of all, that there's no evidence anywhere that Romney's getting anywhere near 50 percent. Gradually, conservatives are consolidating," Gingrich said, noting his gratitude for endorsements from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Georgia businessman Herman Cain, both of whom suspended their campaigns. "So as you look around, you see an awful lot of grassroots conservatives coming together."
Turning to Romney's campaigning, Gingrich said in nearly every debate Romney "would say things that were just plain not true."
"Some of the articles, some of the attacks on me have been breathtakingly dishonest," Gingrich said. "And I think as that deepens, the conservatives are going to come together and decide they do not want a Massachusetts liberal to be the Republican nominee."
Gingrich on the ABC show also questioned Romney's business savvy, particularly after discovering 23 foreign accounts that weren't revealed until Romney released his taxes, and for which the ex-head of Bain Capital has changed his explanation.
"[He's] supposedly a great manager, yet he can't explain 23 different foreign accounts that weren't reported," Gingrich said. "Somehow, every time it's bad, he didn't know about it or he wasn't aware about it. … Every time you turn around, this great manager consistently doesn't understand whatever it is that would have hurt him."
Romney needs to be "candid with the American people," Gingrich said. "You cannot be president of the United States if you cannot be honest and candid with the American people."
Romney can "carpet-bomb me with millions and millions and millions of dollars of Wall Street money," Gingrich said on ABC, but ultimately, "I think the American people are going to want somebody who's a conservative, somebody who's been consistent their whole career, somebody who tells the truth, and I think that they're going to want somebody who is a visionary who wants to change Washington, not somebody who wants to accommodate it."
On CBS' "Face the Nation," Gingrich struck a similar note, saying, "There are a series of things that happened in the debate that are factually false. Now this is a smart man and as you point out, he was well-coached. He came into the debate prepared to say things that are false. I will let you decide whether that is clever or whether that is really bad. I think somebody running for president has a unique requirement to be honest, because the only way you lead the American people is by having them believe in you."
On "Fox News Sunday," Gingrich said, "I give Gov. Romney's campaign respect for the sheer volume of negativity that they use and the sheer amount of money they raise on Wall Street."
In the end, Gingrich said on Fox, it's a matter of who the Republicans want nominate to run against President Obama.
"We have tried a moderate in 1996, and we couldn't debate Bill Clinton effectively and he lost. We tried a moderate in 2008, we couldn't debate Obama effectively and we lost," Gingrich said. "I think if we nominate a moderate this year, the gap between Romneycare [Massachusett's universal health insurance program that Romney signed into law] and Obamacare is about that big. I think it would be very hard for Romney to defend himself."
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who suspended her presidential bid after a dreadful showing in Iowa, told CBS she wasn't going to "weigh in on the veracity of any of the candidates or on the particular charges. That will be for the voters to decide and they will clearly decide here in Florida on Tuesday."