Showing no sign of letting up in his attacks on Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney on Wednesday criticized his chief rival for the GOP nomination as “zany” and “a very wealthy man” in various media interviews, while his surrogates played up the former House speaker’s ties to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“Zany is great in a campaign. It’s great on talk radio. It’s great in print, it makes for fun reading,” Romney told The New York Times. “But in terms of a president, we need a leader, and a leader needs to be someone who can bring Americans together.”
Gingrich responded by telling reporters he intends to continue running what he considers a positive, issue-oriented campaign. “I’ll let him decide what zany is.… They should run their campaign the way they want to; I’m going to run my campaign the way I want to,” he said in Iowa. He invited reporters to ask the Romney campaign, “Where are their new idea ads? Where are their new solution ads?”
Earlier, Romney sought to downplay accusations from Democrats about being rich and out of touch with average Americans, pointing out that Gingrich is wealthy, too.
"Newt Gingrich has wealth from having worked in government," Romney told CBS News in an interview in New York, where he spent the day raising money. "He's a wealthy man, a very wealthy man. If you have a half-a-million dollar purchase from Tiffany's, you're not a middle-class American."
Asked if Gingrich was in the wrong party, Romney responded: "It depends on the day. I just think he's been unreliable in his support of conservative principles."
In the interview with The Times, Romney also brought up what is likely to become a continuing line of attack on Gingrich: that the former college history professor-turned-politician doesn’t have the background to fix the U.S. economy.
“He’s a great historian,” Romney said. “If we need a historian leading the country, I’m sure people would find that attractive. I actually think you need someone who actually understands the economy leading the country.”
And in the CBS interview, he took on the Democratic National Committee for running an ad in which he is shown campaigning to become Massachusetts governor in 2002. In an interview, Romney is seen saying, "I think people recognize that I'm not a partisan Republican, that I'm someone who's moderate and that my views are progressive."
Such comments have conservatives concerned about whether Romney shares their beliefs. He told CBS, "I can't go back to 2002 and know the context of the question that was asked at the time but I can tell you that I can look at my record." Citing his experiences in the business world and government, he said, "I think my conservative bona fides are evidenced in my record."
He also said, "By the way, I ran for president four years ago. The views I spoke of four years ago are exactly the same views I have today."
Romney’s comments came as his campaign unveiled a new website, NewtAndNancy.com, that brings up Gingrich’s brief alliance with Pelosi -- a widely vilified figure among conservatives -- in a 2008 advertisement to address climate change. Gingrich repeatedly has called the ad a major blunder on his part.
Meanwhile, Gingrich’s top aide in Iowa stepped down on Tuesday after a popular blog in the state reported comments he made calling Romney's Mormon religion a “cult.”
Romney told The Times he remains unconcerned about people who might not support him because of his religion. “I think the great majority of voters would like a person of faith to lead the country,” he said. “I think, however, that most people don’t decide who they’re going to vote for based on the religion that they happen to be a member of. But there will be some for who that’s an issue, and I won’t get those votes in some cases. I think that’s the minority, particularly in primary states where a lot of people come and vote.”