SWEETWATER, FLA. -- After predicting a Florida victory in front of a raucous, heavily Latino crowd, Mitt Romney told members of the media that John McCain's interpretation of Romney's past remarks on Iraq timetables were "obviously false" and "yesterday's news." The former Massachusetts governor then changed the subject by rehashing some of McCain's past comments, which seemed to disparage the Arizona senator's own understanding of economic policy.
"I simply don't think that the people of Florida are gonna say the nominee of our party ought to be a person who on more than one occasion has expressed lack of understanding of our economy at a time when the economy is the number one issue that people are talking about here in the state of Florida," Romney said.
Wearing a guayabera shirt that was given to him by Luis Arrizurieta, a Bay of Pigs veteran, Romney stood next to Josefina Carvajal, a Miami schoolteacher and Romney supporter, who would pay no payroll taxes under Romney's economic stimulus plan, since she's over the age of 65.
"The idea of lower taxes for senior citizens I think is a good idea," Romney said. "It encourages seniors to stay in the workforce and it also can expand the size of our workforce, creating more jobs."
In a new line of attack, Romney then tore into the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act.
"Instead of seeing if there's a way of stimulating the economy, McCain-Lieberman would depress the economy," Romney said.
"His plan calls for a new financial burden to be placed on people who are purchasing gasoline, or for that matter, natural gas to heat their homes or to cook in their homes. The energy information agency has said that his plan would cost America 300,000 jobs. In addition, people would pay, they estimate, approximately 50 cents per gallon more for gasoline and 20 percent more for their gas utility bill. That would depress the economy just at a time when we're trying to stimulate the economy."
Since their relatively genial debate on Thursday night, Romney and McCain have been trading increasingly hostile shots at one another. Polls continue to show the two candidates are locked in a dead heat for first place in the Florida primary.The winner of Tuesday's vote will gain strong momentum heading into February 5th, when Republican contests will be held in 21 states.
McCain picked up a big endorsement last night when the states governor, Charlie Crist, decided to throw his support behind the Arizona senator.
"The governor's a great man," Romney said. "You know, I can only say congratulations to Senator McCain on getting his endorsement. I've gotten a number of endorsements as well that I'm proud of. I ultimately think that the decisions people make about who should be our next president, those decisions are made by the people themselves. They don't turn to people they know and say 'Who do you think?' They make their own mind up. And I expect that I'm gonna win this not because of endorsements but because of my message of bringing economic strength and vitality to Florida and to the nation."