Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks with his wife,… (Erik S. Lesser / European…)
Lady Lake, Fla. —
Newt Gingrich, trying to claw his way back into contention before Florida holds its crucial primary in two days, railed Sunday against rival Mitt Romney’s claim that Gingrich did not work as closely with President Reagan as the former House speaker asserts.
“I am, in fact, the legitimate heir to the Reagan movement, not some liberal from Massachusetts,” Gingrich said on Sunday.
He noted that Reagan’s son Michael will be campaigning with him on Monday, “which should tell you how false the ads were earlier this week by Romney that suggested I wasn’t a Reagan Republican.”
He made the remarks to thousands of seniors gathered at the Villages, a massive retirement community in Central Florida that is a GOP enclave and a common stop for presidential hopefuls.
Romney, who will be holding a rally there Monday, bought a full-page ad in the local newspaper on Sunday that featured a letter from 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole disparaging Gingrich’s performance as House speaker. Dole, who is backing Romney, wrote that most of Gingrich’s ideas were “off the wall,” that Gingrich cost the GOP seats in the House and hurt Dole’s bid in 1996, and that if Gingrich wins the GOP nomination, President Obama could have a landslide victory.
Although Gingrich has been campaigning as an outsider, the two-decade congressman argued on Sunday that his knowledge of the intricacies of the capital would make him a more effective president than Romney.
“With all due respect to Gov. Romney, there is an enormous difference in our understanding of both how to move the nation and how to actually get things done in Washington,” he said. “This is a very hard, complicated business. We have had three years of an amateur and we understand it doesn’t work very well. We need someone willing to change Washington. We need someone who knows enough about Washington to know how to change Washington. Both are necessary.”
Gingrich touted Saturday night’s endorsement by Herman Cain, as well as support he has received from Sarah and Todd Palin and others, noting that it proves that he is the grass-roots candidate while Romney is the GOP establishment’s pick. Gingrich said the Washington establishment was becoming “unglued” by his candidacy.
“I am not running for president to manage the decay of the United States to the satisfaction of the establishment. And I am not running for president of the United States to make the Wall Street elite and the Washington elite happy,” he said. “I am running to change both groups on behalf of the people of the United States of America.”
“The truth is we have been served badly, the American people, by the establishment in both parties. Let’s be clear about it, it’s both parties, and it’s time someone stood up for hard-working, tax-paying Americans and said ‘Enough!’ ” Gingrich roared. “And if that makes the old order uncomfortable, my answer is, ‘Good.’