NAPLES, Fla. -- Mitt Romney mocked Newt Gingrich for his appearances on the Sunday news shows earlier in the day, saying the former House speaker is unable to accept that his involvement in Freddie Mac makes him untenable to many Floridians.
"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 that Freddie Mac was not doing the right thing for the American people," he said. "You were selling influence in Washington at a time when we needed people to stand up for the truth in Washington."
Romney has attacked Gingrich before for his complaints about the presidential debates last week, which many believed were a win for the former Massachusetts governor, if only because Gingrich did relatively poorly.
On Sunday, though, as his campaign grows in confidence ahead of the Jan. 31 primary, Romney never said that he likes and respects Gingrich, usually a part of his stump speech before he launches into attacking his fellow candidate. Instead, Romney doubled down on Gingrich, adding to his speech a two-minute -- relatively long, given the length of the total speech -- criticism of Gingrich's consulting work for the government-sponsored organization Freddie Mac, which contributed to the housing crisis.
Florida has been hit hard by the housing crisis, and although the speech was given in the relatively wealthy Naples, Fla., the audience cheered loudly when Romney said Gingrich was tied to foreclosures and plummeting housing prices. Standing on a plaza off a street lined with designer stores and a Starbucks, Romney said the foreclosure crisis would be the story of the election.
Gingrich attempted to pre-emptively justify a loss in Florida, a winner-take-all state for delegates, during appearances on the Sunday morning news shows. Romney said Gingrich went "from station to station" on Sunday morning to make excuses for his growing weakness in the polls.
"I think for each of us, if we fail somewhere, if we fail the debate or we fail to get the support of people, it's time to look in the mirror," he said. "Speaker Gingrich has been having a hard time in Florida because the people of Florida have watched the debates and listened to the speaker and listened to the other candidates and they have said Mitt Romney is the guy we're going to vote for."