WASHINGTON — Presidential candidate Mitt Romney stepped up attacks on rival Newt Gingrich Friday, labeling Gingrich as a Washington insider who is unlikely to win the Republican nomination.
In an interview on "Fox & Friends," Romney repeatedly pointed to Gingrich's decades of service in the House of Representatives and elsewhere in government.
"I must admit that Newt has had a very extensive, long record of working in Washington with various governmental and non-governmental agencies, and I just don't think that's the background that's ideally suited, one, to replace (President) Barack Obama, and number two, to lead the country," Romney said. "This is not a matter of that America needs better lobbyists, or better deal-makers, better insiders — I think America needs a leader."
Romney also disputed Gingrich's claim that Gingrich would win the nomination.
"I'm going to be the nominee," Gingrich said Thursday in an interview with ABC.
When asked if he disagreed, Romney said: "I sure do."
"Let me tell you, over the last year, they've been a lot of people that have been real high in the polls that are not high in the polls anymore," Romney said. "So you know there's this funny thing in America, it's called the election, and to win the election, you've got to earn it."
Romney offered his own prediction. "I'm confident that this will be a successful campaign," he said. "Self-aggrandizing statements about polls are not going to win elections."
The comments represent Romney's most aggressive attacks yet on Gingrich, who has risen in national polls in recent weeks and is currently viewed as the chief conservative alternative to Romney. And while Romney has seen others conservative candidates rise, only to fall back, Gingrich is already a national figure with significant policy expertise — and there is less than a month before voting begins in Iowa, leaving Romney less time to attack.
Romney's comments came a day after Gingrich said he wanted to stay above-board, telling The Associated Press while campaigning in Iowa, "I'm not going to focus on Romney or anybody else." He made the comment just days after saying in South Carolina that he was "a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney" and added: "It's wrong to go around and adopt radically different positions based on your need of any one election."
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