Following his landslide victory in Florida, Mitt Romney talked as if he would be the GOP’s general-election candidate, calling Newt Gingrich’s campaign a “precursor” for his battle against President Obama in the fall and predicting the president would run “the most vitriolic and spiteful campaign in American history.”
Speaking Wednesday on ABC, Romney said the attacks he faced from his Republican rivals would leave him well-prepared to face Obama.
Romney has said that he expected attacks from the Obama campaign on some issues, such as his low federal income tax rate and time as an executive at Bain Capital, but that he was surprised to hear them from conservatives in his own party.
Gingrich and Romney’s battle in Florida grew increasingly contentious.
On Monday, the Gingrich campaign sent out a robo-call accusing Romney of forcing elderly Jewish Holocaust survivors to eat non-kosher foods in nursing homes. The allegation stems from a bill Romney vetoed as governor of Massachusetts, but that later passed, that would have provided additional funding for kosher foods.
Romney tried to put a positive spin on the attacks, saying the “back-and-forth” has been “helpful” in preparing for an Obama campaign that will be “blisteringly negative.”
However, it’s the Romney campaign that flooded the airwaves with negative attack ads in Florida in the days leading up to the primary. Recent estimates show that the Romney campaign and pro-Romney super-PACs outspent Gingrich by nearly $12 million, and that most of that money went to negative ads targeting Gingrich.
At a debate in Jacksonville last Thursday, Romney denied knowing about a Spanish-language ad that accused Gingrich of calling Spanish a “ghetto” language, although CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer later informed Romney that he had approved the ad.
Romney told Fox News on Wednesday that he didn’t know if the negative campaign ads would continue.
“I can’t tell you what the ads are going to be down the road,” he said. “But the strategists will look at what’s working.”
After weeks of hard-edged campaigning, the competitive relationship between the two front-runners has become strained, and many predict that Gingrich, trailing in the polls and with nothing to lose, will take on a scorched-earth campaign to try and derail the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney said he called Gingrich to congratulate him on his victory in South Carolina, but that Gingrich hasn’t called to congratulate him for his victories in New Hampshire or Florida.
“I guess Speaker Gingrich doesn’t have our phone number,” Romney said.
Romney said he’s spoken with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul after each contest.