NAPLES, Fla. – With 19 debates now down, Mitt Romney told a huge Sunshine State crowd today that Newt Gingrich's losses have been his gain.
This morning in Naples, Romney mocked Gingrich for attributing poor debate performance to the crowds on hand at the last two events, held in Florida. "He’s now finding excuses everywhere he can,” Romney said. “He’s on TV this morning going from station to station complaining about what he thinks were the reasons he thinks he’s had difficulty here in Florida. But you know, we’ve got a president who has a lot of excuses, and the excuses are over, it’s time to produce."
Romney continued to say that Gingrich's poor showings were nothing but a boon to him. "My own view is the reason that Speaker Gingrich has been having a hard time in Florida is that people of Florida have watched the debates, have listened to the speaker, have listened to the other candidates and have said, ‘You know what, Mitt Romney’s the guy we’re going to support.’"
Gingrich was on several Sunday talk shows today, slamming Romney’s ads as “breathtakingly dishonest” and criticizing the former Massachusetts governor’s record.
Romney, in turn, hammered Gingrich for his ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a theme he has hit on repetitively across Florida, a state hurt badly by the mortgage crisis. "At the time some people were standing up and saying we need to reform this system, Speaker Gingrich was getting paid $1.6 million dollars to stand up and do what he did, which is to say: 'These programs should continue the way they are, these institutions are fine.' The people of Florida have had enough of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and government interference and it’s time to get back to free market principles."
Addressing Gingrich directly, Romney again hit him his crowd complaints. "So Mr. Speaker, your trouble in Florida is not because the audience is too quiet or too loud, or because you have opponents that are tough. Your problem in Florida is that you worked for Freddie Mac at a time when Freddie Mac was not doing the right thing for the American people. And that you're selling influence in Washington at a time when we need people who will stand up for the truth in Washington."
Romney's fire was not solely trained on his Republican opponent—he had strong words for President Obama too, whom he said has tried to work with international leaders such as Fidel Castro and Kim Jung Un. "I don’t think the answer for America is to somehow try and appease or bow to the world’s worst actors. I believe we stand for the principles of freedom, democracy and human rights, and we stand for them strong and we stand with our friends. We don’t distance ourselves from the people who stand with us around the world. "
Police estimated that there were about 2,000 people in the crowd. Last week, Gingrich held a rally at the same venue and officials estimated that there were perhaps as many as 5,000 people on hand.
Romney's wife, Ann; his son, Craig, and his 5-year-old grandson, Parker, were also on hand, in addition to Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., and his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III. The younger Mack has been out on the campaign trail over the past week, campaigning with Romney and attending Gingrich events in order to mingle with reporters and Gingrich supporters. This was the first time his father has stumped publicly for Romney, who he said holds a "presidential temperament."
In endorsing Romney, the elder Mack said, "he acts like a president. Under fire, under attack, under challenge. He responds as a cool, calm and collected man, a person that we need in the White House.”