TAMPA, Fla. - Mitt Romney continued to attack Newt Gingrich today, calling the former House speaker "erratic" and comparing him to a "pinball machine."
"I think as you look at the speaker's record over time, it's been highly erratic," said Romney during a press conference following a campaign event in Tampa. "You know, he voted in favor of establishing the Department of Education, and yet he gets in a debate and says we should get rid of the Department of Education and send all the education issues back to the states. He's opposed vehemently to the Massachusetts health care system, and yet just a couple years ago wrote about what a superb system it was."
"He's gone from pillar to post almost like a pinball machine, from item to item in a way which is highly erratic," said Romney. "It does not suggest a stable, thoughtful course, which is normally associated with leadership."
Romney, in renewing his request for Gingrich to not only release the reports from his years at mortgage giant Freddie Mac but to also return the estimated $1.7 million Gingrich-associated companies were paid by the company, warned against an "October surprise."
"I think it's appropriate that people should know if there's going to be an October surprise," said Romney. "And in the case of the speaker, he's got some records which could represent an October surprise. We could see an October surprise a day from Newt Gingrich."
"I'm calling again on speaker Gingrich to do two things: One, release all of the work product associated with his work at Freddie Mac and also return the funds he made from Freddie Mac," said Romney. "I wouldn't normally have suggested other than he was the one who said if you made money on this failed model that you ought to return that money."
Romney also suggested that Gingrich was in the position to warn Americans about the looming housing crisis and should have "communicated that to the nation.
"The speaker made $1.7 million in his enterprises from providing services to Freddie Mac. He ought to give it back," said Romney. "We also ought to be able to see what he told them. I hope what he told them was with housing prices going way off their historical trend, with lending way off out of normal range with so-called liar loans and interest-only loans being paid that this was a crisis about to erupt and it could be devastating to the economy, to American families, and that there should be a dramatic shift in the policies of Freddie Mac as well policies of government.
"I didn't hear that nationally. I didn't hear him making those warnings to the nation, he should have if he was working insides this industry providing counsel to them he should have provided that advise to them and have communicated that to the nation," said Romney.
Romney's remarks about Gingrich came after he hosted a roundtable meeting with eight Florida residents who had been hurt by the flailing housing market in the state, a meeting that Romney quipped Gingrich should have joined.
"I found it a very disheartening thing to listen to people having such challenges as you heard this morning individuals out of work, individuals who are losing their homes or have lost their homes, people who are thinking about even of going to other countries, in one case, in Richard's case, to avoid the distress they're feeling here was heartbreaking," Romney said, referring to Richard Wood, one of the residents who had joined the roundtable.
"I wish speaker Gingrich was here this morning to listen to those stories," said Romney.