By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times –
LAS VEGAS — Newt Gingrich unveiled a slashing new line of attack against Mitt Romney on Friday, arguing that his main rival for the GOP nomination does not understand the free market, is not a genuine conservative and is against “American ideals.”
“It isn’t good enough for the Republican Party to nominate Obama-lite,” Gingrich told about 100 supporters gathered at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country bar, some of whom smoked and drank beers during the morning rally. “… I think we want a candidate who works, pays taxes and believes in the Declaration of Independence, not someone who is clearly against the American ideals.”
Gingrich, trailing in the polls hours before Nevada has the first primary in the West on Saturday, intensified his criticism of Romney’s comment earlier this week that he was not concerned about the “very poor” because they have a safety net. (Romney later said he misspoke, but stood by his main point, which is that he is most focused on the middle class.)
“If you’re a genuine conservative, first of all, you don’t say that you don’t care about the poor,” Gingrich said. “If you’re a genuine conservative, you believe we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and we think it is the left which has abandoned and betrayed the poor because its safety net is actually a spider web and it traps people into dependency.”
“Obama’s big food stamp, he’s (Romney’s) little food stamp, but they both think food stamps are OK,” Gingrich continued. “I don’t think food stamps are the future for America — they’re a necessary bridge.”
Gingrich used the statement to hit at Romney’s wealth, saying such a statement is “not a very clever thing” for a man as rich as Romney to say and would be fodder for Democrats if he were the GOP nominee.
He later hit at Romney’s wealth by highlighting the former Massachusetts governor’s investments in Freddie Mac, the federally backed mortgage guarantor.
“We did not create Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac so rich guys like Mitt Romney and Goldman Sachs could make money,” Gingrich said. “We created them to provide low-cost housing for the American people. Their current behavior is a betrayal.”
Gingrich also called out Romney, who has staked his presidential bid on his business experience, for supporting tying the minimum wage to inflation, saying such a move would be a job killer.
“I don’t think he understands the free market,” Gingrich said.
The Romney campaign accused Gingrich of aligning himself with Democrats.
“Newt Gingrich is borrowing Barack Obama’s liberal talking points and is using them to attack Mitt Romney’s career in the private sector,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. “Like President Obama, Speaker Gingrich has spent his entire career in government and he has absolutely no idea how the private sector works…. This is who Newt Gingrich is: an unreliable leader who undermines conservatives, hurts our party, and emboldens President Obama and his liberal allies.”