JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mitt Romney didn't wait long - not even 30 seconds, to be exact - before launching into attacks on Newt Gingrich at this morning's rally here, telling the crowd that the former House speaker "hasn't done so well connecting" with Floridians because of his relationship with mortgage company Freddie Mac.
"It's been fun going to the debates; I love the debates," Romney said, standing in a garage of Ring Power Lift Trucks. "You know these debates have gone pretty well. Speaker Gingrich wasn't very happy with the debates, though. He said after the first debate that he didn't do well because the crowd was so quiet it threw him off. The second debate he said he didn't do well because the crowd was so loud.
"I think the real reason he hasn't done so well connecting with the people of Florida is that people actually saw him in those debates and listened to his background, his experience and learned for, instance, that he was paid $1.6 million to be a lobbyist for Freddie Mac and they said, 'That's not what we want in the White House,'" Romney said.
"I also think if people want to see change in Washington, you can't just let the same people take different chairs."
Romney also poked fun at Gingrich's suggestion that the United States should colonize on the moon, remarking, "The idea of the moon as the 51st state is not what would have come to my mind as a campaign basis for here in Florida."
Standing in the wings of Romney's morning rally - the first of three he will hold on the eve of the Tuesday primary - was Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich aide who left the campaign and now works for the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future. Several of Romney's surrogates have been attending Gingrich events in the past week to "bracket" the former House speaker's remarks.
Tyler, holding an informal news conference after Romney's events, said he "couldn't keep up with the lies."
"I'm here to get as many cameras and microphones so I can talk about Mitt Romney's incessant failure to tell the truth," Tyler said, adding that it was "cold" inside the venue and he "wasn't offered any coffee" but that he was trying to "be a good guest."
Coffee or not, the Romney campaign left Tyler alone, whereas Gingrich's staff have been filmed again and again getting into heated arguments with Romney surrogates who have shown up at the former House speaker's events.
Tyler did not deny the effectiveness of the Romney campaign's aggressive advertisements, saying, "Well when you dump 15 to 20 million dollars worth of false advertising, it's going to have an effect."