In Mecca of Foreclosed Homes, Romney Links Gingrich to Housing Crisis

LEHIGH ACRES, FLA. - Standing in front of a foreclosed home in a Florida suburb, Mitt Romney continued his attacks on Newt Gingrich, tying the former speaker's work at mortgage giant Freddie Mac to the dire state of the neighborhood in which he spoke.

"These government-sponsored enemies in the case of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are a large reason our housing crisis has occurred," said Romney, who stood on a podium in front of a home that once belonged to Chris and Bridgette Davis, who saw their home foreclosed on in June 2011, according to public records.

"I am running against a guy in this primary, who was out working for one of these guys, Freddie Mac," said Romney, who then launched into a renewed attack on Gingrich being an "influence peddler."

"You know, I noted that he has been working as an influence peddler, let me tell you how that works," said Romney. "He gets paid 1.6 million dollars, he says as an historian. I am waiting to see the history he wrote for Freddie Mac."

"But one thing I know he was doing, is he was standing up as the former Speaker of the House and someone who many people respected as a conservative leader, he was standing up and defending Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And so conservatives in Congress and conservatives around the country, instead of arguing to get rid of these entities, to scale the market back and get rid of these guys, they said, 'Well, if Newt Gingrich thinks it's a good idea, why, we ought to go along with it,'" said Romney.

"That's what's known as influence peddling," Romney continued. "You get paid, and then you go out and say things that influence other people. That's the nature of what's been going on in this country. It is wrong, it must stop, we can't have influence peddlers leading our party."

Romney stuck around after his speech, shaking hands with supporters on the street in this suburb of Fort Myers, a neighborhood that was hard hit by the housing crisis and where vacant homes outnumber those that are inhabited. It's often dubbed "ground zero" of the housing crisis.

Romney was also asked about Gingrich's latest attacks that link Romney to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now an independent. Several of Romney's staffers, including senior advisor Stuart Stevens, worked with Crist, and Gingrich has used that fact as a way to back up his claim that Romney is a "Massachusetts moderate."

"Maybe because he lost his whole staff, he's consumed with other people's staff," Romney shot back today. "I don't think this is about staff, I think this is about the candidate."