Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich shows no sign of letting up on his attacks against Mitt Romney, despite losing Saturday’s Nevada caucuses to Romney by a large margin.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press’’ yesterday, Gingrich hit Romney for comments he made on the campaign trail and for positions he took as Massachusetts governor.
“My goal over the next few weeks is to draw very sharp distinctions between [my and] Romney’s positions, which are very - the Wall Street Journal described them as timid, and in terms of tax policy, as being like Obama,’’ Gingrich said.
He dismissed the importance of the Nevada caucuses. “This is a state he won last time, and he won it this time,’’ Gingrich said.
More than 24 hours after the Nevada caucuses began, results from the state’s most populous county were still being tallied. The outcome could affect the second- and third-place finishers.
With votes from 83 percent of Nevada’s caucus precincts tallied, Romney had 48 percent, Gingrich 22 percent, Ron Paul 19 percent, and Rick Santorum 11 percent.
The race now shifts to tomorrow’s caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota and a nonbinding primary in Missouri. Maine’s caucuses began over the weekend and conclude Saturday.
Gingrich said he is relying on Southern states to boost his delegate count. That includes Georgia, the state he represented in Congress, and Tennessee, which both vote March 6; Alabama, which votes March 13; and Texas, which votes April 3. “We believe by the time Texas is over, we’ll be very competitive in delegate count,’’ Gingrich said.
In the NBC interview, Gingrich also attacked Romney’s Massachusetts legacy. “His record as governor is very clear: He was pro-abortion, he was pro-gun control, he was pro-tax increase, he ended up third from the bottom in job creation,’’ Gingrich said. “The combination of Romneycare and tax increases made him a very weak governor in terms of job creation.’’
Although Romney has said he did not raise taxes as Massachusetts governor, he did raise fees and close tax loopholes. Romney was for abortion rights before he became an abortion opponent. He has stood by his health care overhaul in Massachusetts, while opposing President Obama’s overhaul nationally.
Gingrich, who has repeatedly tagged Romney as a moderate, said the last few times Republicans nominated moderates in the presidential race - Bob Dole in 1996 and John McCain in 2008 - “we lost badly.’’
The former speaker also criticized Romney’s proposal to index the minimum wage to the inflation rate, saying that would make it more difficult for young people to find jobs.
Gingrich went on to defend his much-maligned comments that he wants to create a lunar colony. He said he would fund such an endeavor, not through federal spending, but through engaging the private sector. “I believe it’s possible to unleash the American people, to inspire the private sector, to encourage entrepreneurs and have a dramatically better space program than we have today,’’ he said.
After dismal finishes in the last three Republican nominating contests, Santorum said yesterday that he is looking to the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota to turn the race around.
“This race is a long, long way from being over,’’ Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, said on “Fox News Sunday.’’
Santorum said on “Fox News’’ that he believes Romney and Paul had an advantage in the first five contests because both ran for president in 2008.
“Now we’re getting to the states where they don’t have the natural advantage, the time commitment, staff commitment to really build an organization like they did in these first five,’’ Santorum said. “I think we’re going to do very well here in Minnesota. I think we’re going to do very well in Colorado.’’
Santorum called Missouri a “key state,’’ and said he believed he would also do well there.
Paul, on “ABC’s This Week,’’ also showed no sign of exiting the race. He noted that he will still get some delegates from Nevada.Shira Schoenberg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shirashoenberg.