By Justin Sink - 01/30/12 12:42 PM EST
Mitt Romney called Newt Gingrich's continued attacks "sad and painfully revealing" in a series of early morning television appearances intended to keep pressure on the former House speaker a day before the pivotal Florida primary.
Romney provided a blistering critique of Gingrich on NBC's "Today" and Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," repeatedly mentioning Gingrich's ties to troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac and his resignation as Speaker amid ethics allegations.
"It really has been sad and painfully revealing about the speaker to see him railing on like this," Romney said on Fox.
"The fact is that he worked with hundreds of people in Washington, and only a handful of those people are willing to endorse him," Romney told NBC.
The former governor also dismissed Gingrich's own intensifying criticism, which included statements that Romney was a liberal on hot-button issues like abortion and gun control.
"What you're seeing on TV as you see him flail around and attack me is what you saw in the '90s, which led him to ultimately being reprimanded and, if you will, pushed out of the Speakership by fellow Republicans," Romney told Fox.
Romney added that Gingrich was adopting a liberal tone of his own by promising each early-voting state a major federal project, whether it be highway improvements or his proposed moon base.
"I don't know what you can say about the Speaker except he see's that he's not been able to connect with the people of Florida. He's working very hard to find a message that will distinguish himself from the rest of the field, and frankly, his experience as Speaker of the House ending so badly with an ethics scandal, with him having to resign in disgrace ... this is a record, I think, that is hard to square with the new leadership that America needs right now," Romney said.
While Romney acknowledged that his relentless criticism of Gingrich had helped propel him to a sizable lead in the Sunshine State despite a tough loss in South Carolina, he said his improved debate performance also deserved credit.
"I think if you were to go back and look where the sentiment changed, it was with the debates," Romney said on NBC.
Romney also refused to agree to take down a campaign ad that features NBC's Tom Brokaw reporting on Gingrich's resignation. Both Brokaw and the network have asked Romney to remove the ad.
"We'll sit down with the lawyers and talk to the folks at NBC and make a decision on that front," Romney said. "I think the reason that it was so effective as an ad was that this wasn't something that Speaker Gingrich could say was distorted or that Romney was telling things that were not accurate, this instead was just the news from the '90s ... I think that it was pretty devastating and pointed out what Speaker Gingrich was trying to hide."
Romney leads by double digits in most of the recent polls of Florida, and, barring a major shift in momentum, is expected to win the crucial primary.