Newt Gingrich slammed Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney for “carpet-bombing” his record ahead of Tuesday’s pivotal presidential primary in Florida, trying to cut into the resurgent front-runner’s lead in the final hours before the vote.
“He has a basic policy of carpet bombing his opponents,” Gingrich told Fox News Sunday. “He doesn’t try to build up Mitt Romney, he just tries to tear down whoever he’s running against.”
The comments come as a new NBC News/Marist poll shows Romney has regained his front-runner status in the race. The poll showed Romney with support from 42 percent of likely Florida Republican primary voters and Gingrich slipping to 27 percent. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., had 18 percent in the poll.
Gingrich vowed Saturday to stay in the race until the Republican convention in August, regardless of the outcome in Florida on Tuesday.
The former House speaker has been going after Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts, accusing him of being dishonest in his portrayal of his past.
“There’s no question he can raise more money than I can from Wall Street and he has big institutions pouring money into him,” Gingrich said. “What I want to do is have people power.”
The Florida contest has become decidedly bitter and personal with Gingrich casting himself as the insurgent candidate against Romney, the party establishment’s favorite. Romney and Gingrich have tangled over policy and character since Gingrich’s stunning victory over the well-funded Romney in the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21.
Romney, with the help from supporters that include 2008 GOP nominee John McCain, has been hammering Gingrich’s record as House speaker in the 1990s. He’s also been predicting he’ll win in Florida, and has shifted his focus back to President Obama telling voters the incumbent is “detached from reality.”
Gingrich planned to campaign Sunday in central Florida, while Romney scheduled rallies in the south. Romney was also looking ahead to the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 4, airing ads in that state and citing the endorsement Sunday of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s largest newspaper.
Gingrich collected the weekend endorsement of Herman Cain, a favorite of the small government, anti-tax Tea Party movement and former presidential hopeful whose White House effort foundered amid sexual harassment allegations.
Santorum, trailing in Florida by a wide margin despite his appeals to social conservatives, planned to remain in Pennsylvania where his 3-year-old daughter, Bella, was hospitalized, and resume campaigning as soon as possible, according to his campaign. She has a genetic condition caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 18th chromosome.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul has invested little in the Florida race and is looking ahead to next month’s caucuses in Maine, Nevada and other states. The libertarian-leaning Paul is focusing more on gathering delegates in caucus states, where it’s less expensive to campaign. But securing the nomination only through caucus states is a hard task.
NPR’s Don Gonyea and Allison Keyes contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press