NAPLES, Fla. - Mitt Romney, offering GOP rival Newt Gingrich an analysis of his drop in support in the Sunshine State, suggested that the former speaker "look in the mirror" when weighing why he may not been resonating with Floridians just two days before the state's primary.
"[Gingrich is] now finding excuses everywhere he can," said Romney, speaking at an outdoor theater in Naples, where more than 1,000 people had come to hear him speak. "He's on TV this morning going from station to station complaining about what he thinks were the reasons he thinks he's had difficulty here in Florida but you know, we've got a president who has a lot of excuses, and the excuses are over, it's time to produce."
"If we failed somewhere, if we failed the debate, if we failed to get the support of people, it's time to look in the mirror," said Romney. "And my own view is the reason that Speaker Gingrich has been having a hard time in Florida is that people of Florida have watched the debates, have listened to the speaker, have listened to the other candidates and have said, You know what, Mitt Romney's the guy we're going to support."
A new NBC/Marist poll of Florida republicans released this morning show Romney at a distinct advantage over Gingrich.
The poll shows Romney receiving 42 percent of support in likely voters and Gingrich at 27 percent.
Romney expanded his attacks on Gingrich's ties to the housing crisis - which Romney has said repeatedly the former speaker should have warned the American public of during his time consulting for Freddie Mac.
"I know how bad housing is here, how tough it's been. You know one quarter of all the foreclosures in America are in Florida. And you know how much home values have come down," said Romney. "And one of the greatest contributors to the collapse of housing here and across the country was government - and the intrusion of Government into the housing market and the fact that you had Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae guaranteeing mortgages in some cases to people who couldn't possibly pay them back, that contributed to the kind of crises you see here."
"And at the time some people were standing up and saying we need to reform this system, Speaker Gingrich was getting paid $1.6 million dollars to stand up and do what he did, which is to say, 'These programs should continue the way they are, these institutions are fine,'" said Romney.
Repeating his criticism of Gingrich from earlier in the week in which he compared the former speaker to Goldilocks due to his back and forth about whether he wanted a loud audience or a quiet audience in the debate halls, Romney discounted the debate crowds as a reason for Gingrich's slip in support.
"So, Mr. Speaker, your trouble in Florida is not because the audience is too quiet or too loud, or because you have opponents that 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. And that you're selling influence in Washington at a time when we need people who will stand up for the truth in Washington."