CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pummeled front-running rival Mitt Romney as “a moderate Massachusetts Republican to the left of the vast majority” of their party, displaying a tough new tone in New Hampshire after a disappointing performance in Iowa’s caucuses.
Gingrich launched a blistering attack on Romney in what is essentially the home turf of the former Massachusetts governor, who owns a house here.
The former House speaker said Romney had run a Senate race “to the left” of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and had transformed into a moderate to run for governor. What’s more, Gingrich said, Romney was once an independent who repudiated Reagan-Bush policies and voted for “liberal” Paul Tsongas in his 1992 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And Gingrich disputed the idea that Romney is the most electable candidate in the GOP field, arguing that three out of four Republicans rejected him in Iowa.
“The fact is, Gov. Romney has a very limited appeal in a conservative party,” he said.
Gingrich effectively broke a pledge to run a positive campaign, although he didn’t see it that way. The former House speaker contended that as long as he stuck to facts and accurately portrayed Romney’s record — in recent days he has called Romney a liar in regard to Gingrich’s own record — the strategy was not negative.
Gingrich was battered by a barrage of attack ads in Iowa that deflated his frontrunner status. A number of them were run by a political action committee backing Romney.
Gingrich is seeking to reboot his White House bid. He is campaigning in New Hampshire, which holds it primary Jan.10, but has his eye on South Carolina, the first Southern primary where evangelicals and social conservatives hold sway.
The pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future posted online a 2008 ad from John McCain’s primary campaign highlighting Romney’s flip-flops on abortion and gun rights and on being a Republican.
McCain endorsed Romney on Wednesday in New Hampshire. But in 2008 they were rivals for the GOP nomination for president and the McCain camp pummeled him for swapping positions.
“Mitt Romney’s flip-flops truly are masterpieces,” the ad concludes.
Gingrich didn’t congratulate Romney Tuesday night in Iowa and declined an opportunity to do so Wednesday in New Hampshire.
“I know that’s a rhetorical question,” Gingrich told a reporter who asked why he hadn’t offered the traditional postelection congratulations to the victor.
“I suspect it’s going to be a very lively campaign. I am delighted to be in New Hampshire to talk about big ideas, big solutions and a big contrast,” he said.
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