Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich was throwing wild punches at his political opponents during a rally in Florida on Sunday, blasting GOP rival Mitt Romney for his moderate positions on social issues.
Romney is "a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase moderate from Massachusetts," Gingrich told an enthusiastic gathering of mostly senior citizens in The Villages, an hour north of Orlando.
"I am, in fact, the legitimate heir of the Reagan movement, not some liberal from Massachusetts," he said to much applause.
Trailing badly in the crucial Florida primary with just two days before voters have their say, Gingrich tried to paint himself as the only Republican capable of defeating President Barack Obama and moving the country in a decidedly conservative direction.
"I am delighted that tomorrow Michael Reagan will be campaigning with me. Which should tell you how false the ads were this week by Romney that suggested that I wasn't a Reagan Republican," the former Speaker of the House added.
He struck a defiant pose against critics who charge him with racism in the wake of his claim that Obama will be known as the "Food Stamp President."
"I described something which is factually true," Gingrich said. "His failed economic policies have forced more Americans to apply for food stamps than any president in history."
Obama lives in "a fantasy world where there are no enemies," according to Gingrich. "There is a complete failure of imagination among our elites. They can't get it into their heads the fact that, if the Iranians get nuclear weapons, they don't have to fire a missile. They can just drive a boat into Jacksonville. Or drive a boat into New York Harbor," Gingrich warned.
Despite his dire proclamations, a new NBC/Marist poll suggests Gingrich will place a distant second to Romney on Tuesday. Romney leads Gingrich 42 percent to 27 percent, with Rick Santorum third with 16 percent.
Santorum cancelled his campaign stops on Sunday, instead flying home to be with his ailing young daughter.
"The bottom line in all this is Romney's sitting in the driver's seat going into Tuesday," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College.
by vince O'Hara
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