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Romney plans to target Gingrich

As he accepted another embrace from an establishment Republican, presidential contender Mitt Romney on Tuesday sought to brush back the challenger who has leaped past him in the race for the party’s nomination.

Casting himself as the political outsider and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a creature of the Washington that voters despise, Romney pledged to go after Gingrich’s record. The remarks, after a fundraiser here with endorser and former Vice President Dan Quayle, came as new polls nationally and in early voting states showed Gingrich continuing to pull ahead of Romney.

“We’re going to make sure that the differences in our experience and perspective are well-aired. You can be sure I will not be quiet; I am going to make sure my message is heard loud and clear,” Romney told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “Gingrich is a friend. I respect him, but we have very different life experiences. If Americans want someone who’s been in Washington the last 40 years, then that’s him.”

Quayle underscored Romney’s argument that — as a career businessman and one-term Massachusetts governor — he had the best chance of defeating President Obama.

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“Who’s our best hope to take on President Obama? Mitt Romney,” Quayle said to the cheers of about 200 people gathered in front of the Hermosa Inn. “I tell you one thing, folks. The Obama people, they believe he’s the toughest competitor; they don’t want to run against him. They’ll take anyone but Mitt Romney. He is our best hope to change the direction of America.”

Quayle, vice president under President George H.W. Bush, a role in which he was best known for a series of gaffes, has largely shunned the political spotlight in recent years. The two men stood a short distance apart on a small platform in front of stands of cactuses, just down the street from where Quayle retired with his wife.

Romney swatted archly at Obama, who delivered a populist speech Tuesday in Kansas in which he railed against GOP opposition to his economic policies and tried to step up pressure on Congress to extend payroll tax cuts. Obama made the speech in the same town where Theodore Roosevelt delivered a historic address in 1910.

“In what way is [Obama] like Teddy Roosevelt?” Romney asked. “Teddy Roosevelt of course founded the Bull Moose Party. One of those words applies. When this president is talking about how he’s helped the economy, one of those words applies.”

With the Iowa caucuses less than a month away, the former Massachusetts governor signaled a new willingness to engage. He agreed to talk this weekend with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who has been needling him for weeks as the only Republican candidate unwilling to consent to an interview. Romney has avoided the Sunday news shows, a traditional platform for candidates, for nearly two years.

“You’re going to see me on a lot more shows than I’ve been on in the last several months,” Romney said. “Part of that is we’re getting … to the end of the process and it’s time to make our case to the American people, and to the people of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. So I’ll be seeing you more often.”

At the same time, Romney said he would not participate in a Dec. 27 debate to be hosted by controversial businessman Donald Trump in Iowa. He told reporters his schedule was full and that he had already agreed to participate in two debates this month. The first will be Saturday in Des Moines.

Romney said his campaign was entering a new phase, and that after one more week of fundraising he would be on the ground campaigning in the early states.

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“We’re just starting. We’re just getting up with ads. We’re making our closing argument. You’ll see me campaign aggressively,” he said. “I’ll be on the air a good deal more than in the past, doing the very best to communicate to the American people why I’m running for president.”

Romney had an unlikely ally Tuesday in his effort to blunt Gingrich’s rise. Texas Rep. Ron Paul began airing a new advertisement in Iowa attacking Gingrich as a hypocrite, standing for one thing while he was in the House and another once he left. The ad took particular aim at Gingrich’s acceptance of more than $1.6 million in payments to advise mortgage giant Freddie Mac, even though he raged during a recent debate at political figures who had advanced its policies.

seema.mehta@latimes.com


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