Two top surrogates for Mitt Romney’s campaign blasted Newt Gingrich on Thursday as an “untrustworthy” conservative leader who would be a weak general-election opponent against President Obama -- the opening salvo in a new effort by the Romney campaign to draw sharp contrasts with the former House speaker.
“If the nominee is Newt Gingrich, then the election is going to be about the Republican nominee, which is exactly what Democrats want,” said former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, who participated on a conference call with former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo.
Talent and Sununu highlighted Gingrich’s criticism of the budget reform plan of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which he initially called “radical right-wing social engineering,” as evidence that conservatives can’t trust him.
“Gingrich’s undercutting of Paul Ryan proves he’s more concerned about Newt Gingrich than he is about conservative principles,” said Sununu, adding that the former speaker's criticism was one of the most “self-serving and anticonservative things one can imagine happening.”
Romney, by contrast, supported the proposal, they said, and later adopted many of its principles.
The sharp words come as Gingrich has soared ahead of Romney in both national polls and surveys of early primary states, a surge that has knocked Romney off his perch as the GOP presidential primary’s undisputed front-runner.