THERESA CAMPBELL | Staff Writer
(The Daily Commercial) Newt Gingrich lashed out Mitt Romney in Mount Dora Thursday, saying the former Massachusetts governor is guilty of lies, desperation and hypocrisy that should make "every American angry."
Speaking at the Lakeside Inn before a crowd of about 1,000, the former House speaker said Romney is being fueled by Washington lobbyists and special interest money, as evident by all of the negative advertising hitting the airwaves in Florida.
"I am running for president to represent you, not to represent the Washington lobbyists, not to represent Goldman Sachs, not to represent the people who have been ruining this country," Gingrich said. "And I need your help."
Accompanied by his wife Callista, the North Lake Tea Party-endorsed candidate received cheers as he vowed to shake up the Washington establishment.
"Remember, the Republican establishment is just as much as the Democratic establishment, and they are just as determined to stop us," Gingrich said.
"This is a campaign, for the very nature of the Republican party and the very opportunity for citizen conservatism, to defeat the power of money and to prove that people matter more than Wall Street and that people matter more than all the big companies that are throwing the cash under one man's (ads) that are false."
The volume of attack ads airing in the Sunshine State are similar to those that badly hurt Gingrich in Iowa.
"We were drowned in a sea of mud in Iowa," he said. "Mud paid for with special-interests money, money paid for by lobbyists in Washington and a candidate who was willing to say anything and do anything because he is so desperate to be president that he doesn't think that the truth matters.
"But, I'm here as a citizen. I frankly don't care what the Washington establishment thinks of me, because I intend to change them."
Gingrich has sharpened his criticism on his opponent after tax returns showed Romney held investments in Cayman Islands, the government-backed mortgage company Freddie Mac, and other entities.
"He owns a Goldman Sachs subsidiary, which is foreclosing on Floridians," Gingrich said.
Acknowledging a man in the crowd wearing a "I really miss Reagan" T-shirt, Gingrich said he felt the same way and shared with the crowd his close ties with the former president.
"Michael Reagan has endorsed me," Gingrich said of the son of President Ronald Reagan. "In 1995, at the Goldwater Institute, Nancy Reagan said that Ronald Reagan's torch had been passed to me as speaker of the House and that I was carrying the values he believed in."
Gingrich talked about his opponent's flip-flopping.
"During that entire period, Mitt Romney was a money-making Independent," Gingrich said. "He had no interest in politics; he wasn't involved in helping save the country."
He added that in 1992, Romney gave money to the Democrats running for Congress, and voted in the Democratic presidential primary for Paul Tsongas, "the most liberal candidate."
"This is a man (Romney) who questions my credentials as a Reagan aide?" Gingrich said. "This is the kind of gall they have to think we're so stupid and we're so timid? That we'll let somebody who voted for Paul Tsongas. In 1994, (Tsongas) was running to the U.S. Senate to the left of Teddy Kennedy. Do you know how hard it is to run to the left of Teddy Kennedy?"
Gingrich stressed his overall mission is to beat President Obama, and to focus on economic growth and job creation. He told the crowd he was involved in creating jobs with Reagan in the 1980s, during a period of "16 million jobs, lower taxes, less regulation."
The Republican contender noted for his strong debate skills, questions his opponent's ability to debate President Obama.
"I don't think Gov. Romney could last in a debate with Barack Obama," Gingrich said. "We need a solid conservative who can stand there and look straight in the eyes of the president and say 'Mr. President, you are wrong and your policies are fake."
Several in audience responded by chanting in unison: "Taxed enough already."
"I promise you," Gingrich added, "I am going to fight every day to the end until we win this nomination."
The Associated Press contributed material to this report.