PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Mitt Romney opened a new line of attack on Newt Gingrich today in their battle for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, telling a crowd of hundreds gathered in a shipyard that the former speaker can't "re-write history" in an attempt to get elected.
"I'm running against Speaker Gingrich, for instance, a very nice fellow and he's a historian, but that doesn't give him the right to re-write history," Romney said.
"He was given the opportunity to lead our party," said Romney, as a member of the crowd shouted out, "He failed!"
"You're right," Romney answered. "He failed.
"We allowed him to lead our party and some of us remember, oh yeah, the Contract With America, that was a good thing, we took over the house that was great news," Romney said. "What happened four years later? Well, he was fined for ethics violations. He ultimately had to resign in disgrace.
"He can't re-write history we have to go back and look at history and say he may be a great guy with a lot of great ideas, but he is not the leader we need in a critical time," he said. "This will be a historic election and we need to have someone who has been a leader and has succeeded at being a leader, I have and I will lead America back to strength."
Romney focused on the differences between himself and Gingrich only briefly during his event at the Eastern Ship Building Company, where the ship called the "Harvey Hauler" sat idle behind him as he spoke. Instead he focused much of his speech on President Obama.
"Now I'm speaking to you again as if I'm already the candidate for president of the Republican Party, but I'm not," he said. "I [have] still got some primaries to go through. There's one coming up here on Tuesday. So I need to convince everyone here to go get a few friends to vote for me."
Later as he shook hands with supporters, Romney spoke again about his confidence level going into this Tuesday's primary.
"I just feel like things are going in our direction, I am hoping for a big turnout, and I think we are going to win here, I sure hope so," he said.