Mitt Romney wasted no time in going after his new chief rival in the GOP primary, Newt Gingrich, during the Monday night NBC-National Journal debate in Tampa:
I think this is going to come down to a question of leadership. I think as you choose the president of the United States, you're looking for a person who can lead this country in a very critical time, lead the free world and the free world has to lead the entire world. I think it's about leadership.
The speaker was given an opportunity to be the leader of our party in 1994. And at the end of four years, he had to resign in disgrace. In the 1970s, he came to Washington. I went to work in my first job in the 1970s, at the bottom level of a consulting firm. In the 1990s, he had to resign in disgrace from this job as speaker. I had the opportunity to go off and run the Olympic Winter Games. In the 15 years after he left the speakership, the Speaker has been working as an influence-peddler in Washington.
And during those 15 years, I helped turn around the Olympics, helped begin a very successful turnaround in the state of Massachusetts. The speaker -- when I was fighting against cap and trade, the speaker was sitting down with Nancy Pelosi on a sofa encouraging it. When I was fighting to say that the Paul Ryan plan to save Medicare was bold and right he was saying it was right-wing social engineering.
We have very different perspectives on leadership and the kind of leadership that our conservative movement needs not just to get elected but to get the country right.
In response, Gingrich said he wasn't going to "spend the evening trying to chase Gov. Romney's misinformation." He said that on Tuesday his website, Newt.org, will have answers to some of the attacks.