TAMPA, FL — Muhammad Ali may have invented the rope-a-dope, but Newt Gingrich is perfecting the move here in Florida as the he fends off repeated attacks by his rival Mitt Romney in the hopes a late surge will put him over the top in the Sunshine State.
A day after Newt Gingrich called Mitt Romney a “carpet-bomber” on ABC’s This Week, the former speaker continued his assault on Romney Monday afternoon at a rally here at the Tampa International Jet Center in Tampa, FL.
Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of dozens of people, Gingrich exclaimed, “This is a guy who has spent $17.5 million on falsehoods. He voted for Paul Tsongas. He donated money to the Democrats. And he’s questioning my credentials? That just shows you how out of touch with reality Romney is. The establishment is terrified of a Gingrich nomination.”
While most polls show Gingrich slipping to a 15-point deficit in the state, an Insider Advantage poll indicates that the former speaker may be gaining ground in the state on the eve of voting. Even better news for Gingrich — a new Dixie Strategies/The News-Press/First Coast News poll has him dead even with Mitt at 35%.
Gingrich admitted this weekend that he needed a strong finish in the Florida primary to save his “unique campaign.” A double-digit loss would be the beginning of a long month for the Gingrich as the campaign heads into a lull before the Super Tuesday primaries on March 6.
Learning from his defeat in South Carolina, Romney continues to wage attacks on Gingrich — this time on Fox and Friends, where the former governor stated, “We keep hearing him talk about fundamental change and big ideas. What are they? A colony on the moon? I frankly think that’s not the kind of big idea America is looking for.” He continued, “He is the same old Newt Gingrich. What you’re seeing on TV as you see him flail around and attack me is exactly what you saw back in the 90′s which led to him being reprimanded and ultimately, if you will, pushed out of the Speaker position by his own fellow Republicans.”
Pushing back, Gingrich cited remarks made by liberal billionaire financier George Soros from the World Economic Forum in Davos over the weekend. Speaking to policymakers at the event, Soros stated that there is “little difference” between Romney and Obama, but that Gingrich would be real change.
Gingrich continued, “This is the other difference between Mitt Romney and I. I love people power and not money power. And I need people power to win.”
As Newt and his entourage arrived at the plane hangar, a small press gaggle formed around the Gingrich asking him to respond to Romney’s attacks. Gingrich made brief remarks that were barely audible to most of the press corps before walking away — his campaign canceled a press availability that was scheduled to take place before the event.
Newt finished his closing argument with voters by stating, “Re-electing Barack Obama will be disaster of the first order and we have to defeat him. The question is who is best to defeat him? We nominated a moderate in 1996 and 2008 and we lost. He [Romney] is more liberal than both those candidates.”
Gingrich will visit polling places on Tuesday in the Orlando area while Romney will make one stop in Tampa before holding his primary night rally at the Tampa Convention Center.
(Watch Alexis Garcia reporting from Tampa at PJTV.)