Mitt Romney launches assault on Gingrich

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigns at Sugden Plaza in Naples, Fla., Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Charles Dharapak
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

UPDATED 8:08 p.m. ET

POMPANO BEACH, Florida-- After using a 15-year old news clip of NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw in atelevision ad released Friday reminding voters of Newt Gingrich's violations of House ethics rules, Mitt Romney late Sunday decided to generate some fresh news clips ahead of Tuesday's Florida primary.

The Romney campaign launched a sharp broadside against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for questioning his character earlier in the day.

Gingrich told CBS' Face the Nation Sunday that "facts don't matter" to Romney.

"I think when people understand how many different times... he said things that weren't true, his credibility is going to just, frankly, collapse," Gingrich told host Bob Schieffer.

Gingrich told Schieffer he would let the voters make up their own minds if Romney is dishonest, but he then said Romney's "non-truths" are going to hurt him in Florida.

"I think it's really dangerous in a debate to use non-facts because you win a tactical victory, but you strategically begin to destroy your own credibility," Gingrich said.

That got Romney's attention.

Speaking to a packed crowd at the Emma Lou Olson Civic Center here, Romney said voters should look at Gingrich's past.

"If you ever try to hire someone for a job, you look at not just at what they say, but also what they've done, what their record is. And his record was one of failed leadership," Romney said, speaking of Gingrich.

Romney said "the speaker had one chance to lead our party ... and after 4 years he had to resign in disgrace," adding that his approval rating was just 18 percent when he stepped down.

His campaign dispatched his surrogates to remind reporters of Gingrich's history, and his campaign communications director Gail Gitcho called it a "stunning act of desperation."

"If Americans are looking for a leader with character, there is no better choice than Mitt Romney," New Jersey Gov. Christie said in a prepared statement.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the criticism of Romney is "way out of bounds."

"I thought I had heard it all from Newt Gingrich, but for him to question the character of Mitt Romney is over the line," Pawlenty said.

  • Corbett Daly On Twitter» Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.