With Gingrich slipping in FL polls, Romney steps up pressure

NAPLES, Fla. — Buoyed by new polls suggesting he could walk away with the vote in Florida, Mitt Romney kept his foot on the pedal on Sunday, spending more time hitting Newt Gingrich than in almost any other campaign appearance.

"Mr. Speaker, your trouble in Florida is not because the audience is too quite or too loud, or because you have opponents who are tough," said Romney. "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."

Romney added that Gingrich had been "selling influence in Washington at a time when we needed people to stand up for the truth in Washington."

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About one-quarter of Romney’s 20-minute address to a packed rally focused on Gingrich and the reasons he should be neither the GOP nominee nor the next president. A few thousand Floridians packed a rally in a public square in Naples, tucked in between boutique galleries and kitschy theme restaurants on a boardwalk-like strip near the water.

In prior campaign appearances in Florida, Romney dropped a punch or two at Gingrich his top rival in Tuesday's primary, but quickly segued to attacks on President Obama, affirmations of his belief in the free market and recitations of verses from "America the Beautiful."

But on Sunday, he was unrelenting as he systematically worked to knock down Gingrich, who new polls in Florida show is now at least 10 points behind the former Massachusetts governor.

"You know, he’s now finding excuses everywhere he can. He’s on TV this morning going from station to station complaining about what he thinks are the reasons he's had difficulty here in Florida," Romney said, his audience eating it up and cheering him on. "But you know we’ve got a president who has a lot of excuses, and the excuses are over, it’s time to produce."

Romney's rally-goers seemed to take the attacks in stride — with the exception of a few interspersed protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement, including one woman who loudly sang opera music from the back of the crowd while Romney spoke.

Romney was also backed up in his jabs at Gingrich by some of the biggest names in Florida Republican politics: the Mack family. Rep. Connie Mack IV (R), the GOP frontrunner in Florida's Senate race, joined his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III (R-Fla.) to throw their support behind Romney.

Rep. Mack said Gingrich had a "checkered path with ethics and honesty."



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