Mitt Romney: Newt Gingrich is the frontrunner

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011.
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Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich
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During most of the race for the Republican presidential nomination thus far, Mitt Romney has acted like the frontrunner, keeping his attacks focused on President Obama rather than his GOP rivals. But now the former Massachusetts governor is acknowledging that he has to cede his frontrunner status to Newt Gingrich.

Asked during an interview with Politico if the former House speaker is the frontrunner, Romney replied, "He is right now."

Poll after poll now shows Gingrich taking a strong lead nationally and in key states, including Iowa, South Carolina and Florida.

Gingrich's lead has prompted the Democratic party to go after him, but Romney may not be able to afford to let the president's party do all the dirty work. Romney demonstrated today he's ready to go after the new frontrunner himself, slamming Gingrich for doing lucrative consulting work for the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. He called on Gingrich to return the $1.6 million he made.

Still, Romney told Politico that he's only willing to go so far with the attacks against his Republican rivals because primary voters "want someone who is willing to be a responsible leader, that brings America together as opposed to dividing America... I don't tend to say outrageous things about other people that I don't believe in order to win political points."

(Earlier Monday, Romney described the $10,000 bet he offered to Rick Perry as "an outrageous number to answer an outrageous charge from [Perry]." It appeared, after two days of defending his proposed bet, that Romney may have come to regret that "outrageous" language.)

While Romney is attempting to take the high road by limiting his attacks against Gingrich, he may run the risk of appearing somewhat detached from the race.

"I could become our nominee, or someone else might become our nominee and I can go back to business and go back to my family," Romney told Politico. "Either one of those is a very nice outcome... Of course I want to win. I'm fighting hard to win, but, you know, I have a life, too."

He suggested that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may have made a better Republican nominee, saying, "If I thought someone else could do a better job -- I mean, I've said before, if Jeb Bush were running and in this race, I probably wouldn't have gotten in."

Though Gingrich is surging in the polls now, Romney said he expects to get the nomination after nomination contest that "could go for months and months."