The contrast between the two campaigns’ approaches was most evident last Thursday.
Gingrich was in Mount Dora, addressing a rally “as a citizen,” he said, and he erupted in a tirade against Romney, calling him “some guy who has Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Islands accounts, owns shares of Goldman Sachs that forecloses on Florida, and is himself a stockholder in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”
Romney was in Jacksonville, delivering a carefully scripted speech beneath a 30-foot banner that read: “OBAMA ISN’T WORKING.” Speaking from a printing plant that is closing after a century in business, the former Massachusetts governor was fiery but composed and accused the president of governing from “fantasy land.” He took no questions from the audience or reporters, instead letting his remarks drive his two main themes: fixing the economy and defeating Obama.
On television, meanwhile, Romney’s campaign and allies battered Gingrich with paid advertising. At their battle stations, Romney’s aides in concert labeled Gingrich as “unhinged” and called the former House speaker “Dr. Newt and Mr. Hyde.” Then that evening, Romney went on the attack himself, getting the better of Gingrich at the CNN debate, and the momentum was his.
The day punctuated Romney’s resurgence after a resounding defeat to Gingrich in South Carolina and represented the kind of campaign Romney and his advisers say they need to wage as the race moves west to a flurry of contests.
“If you attack me, I’m not going to just sit back,” Romney told reporters Tuesday morning in Tampa. “I’m going to fight back, and I’m going to fight back hard.”
After his South Carolina loss, Romney concluded that it was not enough to maintain a singular focus on Obama. Before pivoting to the general election, he must actually win the nomination.
So Romney went on a sustained and sharply personal attack. And his advisers say he will keep up the attack on Gingrich, as well as on former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), as the race moves continues.
“The president and his failures on the economy remain our main focus,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney adviser. “That will always be the elevator music in this campaign. But we’re also going to be drawing sharp contrasts with our opponents as required.”
In South Carolina, Romney lost control of his message and spent a week defending his personal wealth and his reluctance to release his tax returns.