Monday, January 23, 2012

Romney Unleashes Attack on Gingrich at Tampa GOP Debate

At New York Times, "Romney Unleashes Attack With Gingrich Sole Target":

TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney leveled a searing attack against Newt Gingrich’s character and raised pointed questions about his ability to lead during a debate here Monday evening, taking urgent steps to slow Mr. Gingrich’s rising momentum in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination.

For the first time, Mr. Gingrich strode onto the stage as an indisputable equal to Mr. Romney after dislodging him from his confident perch as the front-runner in the race with his commanding victory on Saturday in South Carolina. Mr. Romney dug into his rival’s tenure as House speaker and the ensuing years, when he advised companies like the mortgage giant Freddie Mac, a period for which Mr. Romney branded him as “an influence peddler in Washington.”

“You are looking for a person who can lead this country at a very critical time,” Mr. Romney said. “The speaker was given the opportunity to be the leader of our party in 1994, and after four years he resigned in disgrace.”

Mr. Gingrich painted Mr. Romney’s attacks as desperate and riddled with inaccuracies. He embraced his confrontational style and defended himself forcefully, but his responses came without the bombast that has delighted crowds throughout the race.

“They’re not sending somebody to Washington to manage the decay,” Mr. Gingrich said. “They’re sending somebody to Washington to change it, and that requires somebody who’s prepared to be controversial when necessary.”

The new landscape of the Republican campaign came into sharp view, with Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich often seeming as though they had traded personalities for the evening. It was clear from the outset that the tables had turned, as Mr. Romney repeatedly tried to provoke Mr. Gingrich, who has built up a reputation as a formidable debater.

“I’m not going to spend the evening trying to chase Governor Romney’s misinformation,” Mr. Gingrich said, telegraphing his plan to try to take the high road. “I think the American public deserves a discussion about how to beat Barack Obama.”

Yet on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union address, the debate was notable for the lack of time devoted to Mr. Obama. It was the first sign of the consequences of a drawn-out Republican nominating contest, with Mr. Obama taking a back seat to terse re-examinations of the candidates’ records.
Continue reading.

And see Washington Post, "Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich clash sharply in Republican presidential debate." And USA Today, "Florida debate marks pivotal moment in the Republican race."

William Jacobson has comments, "Republican Debate – Tampa, FL."