Gingrich hits Romney for "factually incorrect" statements

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a Republican Jewish Coalition rally at the South County Civic Center, Friday, Jan. 27, 2012, in Delray Beach, Fla. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - After generally being perceived as underperforming in Thursday night's debate, Newt Gingrich tried on Friday to shift the focus to what he called "factually incorrect" statements by his chief rival Mitt Romney.

Speaking before a primarily Jewish audience in Delray Beach, Gingrich called Romney out for saying in Thursday night's CNN debate that he "never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot."

Gingrich called the statement the fourth version to be given by Romney. "In 1992, he gave money to three Democratic candidates for Congress and he voted in the Democratic primary for [Massachusetts'] Paul Tsongas, who was the most liberal person," Gingrich said.

He then referenced a tweet sent on Thursday by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, who wrote: "I don't believe Mitt told truth about 1992. He voted Tsongas in D POTUS primary when Bush 41 was facing Pat Buchanan, same day 3/10/92."

Romney, who was a registered independent in 1992, explained his vote for Tsongas by telling ABC News in 2007 that it was intended as a tactical maneuver aimed at finding the weakest opponent for then-President George H.W. Bush. However, The Boston Globe reported in 1994 that the former Massachusetts governor's vote came because he wanted to support his fellow Bay Stater Tsongas and because he preferred his ideas to those of then-candidate Bill Clinton.

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a Republican Jewish Coalition rally at the South County Civic Center, Jan. 27, 2012, in Delray Beach, Fla.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

"My point being," Gingrich went on, "I am a Reagan conservative. I have been a Reagan conservative my whole career. [Romney] was an independent -- at best a moderate -- who was in fact voting in a Democratic primary for the most liberal candidate for president."

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in response that Gingrich "is desperate to distract from his record of failed and unreliable leadership" to try to bolster his campaign.

"It is laughable to see lectures on honesty coming from a paid influence peddler who suffered an unprecedented ethics reprimand, was forced to pay a $300,000 penalty and resigned in disgrace at the hands of his own party," Saul said.

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