Accusations fly ahead of Fla. primary

Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaks at a rally at Casa Marin restaurant in Miami on January 29, 2012. UPI/Michael Bush
Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaks at a rally at Casa Marin restaurant in Miami on January 29, 2012. UPI/Michael Bush | License Photo

LADY LAKE, Fla., Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Newt Gingrich called Mitt Romney a "liberal" and Romney called Gingrich a failed Washington insider as the Florida primary campaign headed into its final day.

"I am, in fact, the legitimate heir to the Reagan movement, not some liberal from Massachusetts," the former House speaker said Sunday.


He noted Reagan's son, Michael, would campaign with him Monday, "which should tell you how false the ads were earlier this week by Romney that suggested I wasn't a Reagan Republican," Gingrich said.

The former Georgia congressman spoke to about 2,000 senior citizens gathered at a massive retirement community in the north-central Florida town of Lady Lake, a GOP enclave of about 13,000 residents.

Romney, who was to hold a rally in the town Monday, bought a full-page ad in the local newspaper Sunday featuring a letter from 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole criticizing Gingrich's performance as House speaker.


Dole, who supports the former Massachusetts governor, said in the ad that most of Gingrich's ideas were "off the wall" and that Gingrich cost Republicans seats in the House and hurt Dole's 1996 White House bid.

He also said that if Gingrich won the GOP nomination, Democratic President Barack Obama could have a landslide victory.

Romney told a crowd of several hundred outside a Hialeah, Fla., restaurant he thought Gingrich was "a nice man."

But he said he saw Gingrich on TV earlier in the day "was describing his excuses and why he wasn't doing so well here in Florida."

Gingrich is falling in polls among likely GOP Florida voters after leading in the polls early last week.

"He's talking about me and he's looking for some kind of excuse, but I'm afraid the real reason he hasn't been successful connecting with the people of Florida is because of his message."

He said Gingrich should "look in the mirror" if he wants to understand his slide in the polls.

Romney said the reason they couldn't connect with Gingrich was because he was not a regular person. He said Gingrich was a consummate political insider who consulted for Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant blamed in part for the housing crisis that hit Florida hard.


"I don't think you change Washington by having the same people just take different seats, all right?" Romney said. "You've got to change the people. I've not spent time in Washington. I spent my life in the private sector."

"I know what it's like to lead. I've been successful as a leader," he added. "I didn't get pushed out as leader."

Gingrich was reprimanded by the House in 1997 for ethics charges and fined $300,000. He resigned his position a year later after Republicans did poorly in the midterm elections.

Gingrich told ABC's "This Week" Sunday the Romney campaign was running a "campaign of vilification" focused on "carpet-bombing with negative ads."

He also called Romney's character "a very serious problem."

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who had been a GOP White House hopeful but now is entrenched in the Romney camp, called Gingrich's comments "over the line." Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said he was "very disappointed" about the comments.

Latest Headlines