CINCINNATI—Newt Gingrich lobbed a joint attack on President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney over contraception mandates on Tuesday, saying Romney, as governor, supported forcing Catholic institutions to break from their church’s doctrine and provide emergency contraception.
Gingrich, a Catholic, linked Romney’s record to Obama’s, seizing on what has become a controversial decision by the Obama administration to mandate that Catholic institutions provide health insurance that includes coverage of birth control, sterilization, and emergency contraception,
“There has been a lot of talk about the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic church,” Gingrich said. “The fact is Governor Romney insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills against their religious belief when he was governor. So you have a similar pattern.”
In late 2005, Romney required all Massachusetts hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide rape victims with emergency contraception. But Romney has sharply criticized Obama for the recent health coverage decision, saying Monday night in Colorado that, “We must have a president who is willing to protect America’s first right: our right to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.”
Addressing a crowd of about 150 people crammed into Sam’s Golden Fleece Lounge, Gingrich also delivered what has become his standard stump speech, drawing contrasts between his vision and Mitt Romney’s, arguing that the GOP front-runner doesn’t offer enough bold contrasts.
“I don’t think that a moderate can defeat Obama, because they don’t have enough space to debate,” Gingrich said, repeating what has become the central argument for his candidacy. “I think if you look at Romneycare and Obamacare they are too similar. If you look at his record as governor, they are too similar.”
Gingrich has shifted his emphasis since finishing well behind Romney in the Florida primary. He is now focusing on Romney’s term as Massachusetts governor—he rarely mentions Romney’s work as a venture capitalist at Bain Capital.
Exit polls from past contests show that lower-income, more blue-collar Republicans prefer Gingrich to Romney. He has also done well among hard-core conservatives and evangelicals, although Romney is closing that gap.
There are contests Tuesday in Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota, and voters in Michigan and Arizona will go to the polls at the end of the month. But Gingrich is already jumping ahead to Super Tuesday, when roughly 400 delegates will be up for grabs in 10 states.
Low on cash, and facing a difficult month, he has has ramped up his television schedule, appearing on Fox Tuesday morning, and on North Dakota radio, in an effort to benefit from free media.
He has said that he will run an “ideas-based campaign,” heavy on specifics and his vision for the country, yet he acknowledged that often those ideas have been met with some skepticism.
“When you go to Washington, their eyes glaze over. They keep going, ‘why does Gingrich talk about all these strange ideas?’, and I keep trying to convince them, this is called the real world.”
Determined not to have a repeat of Florida, where Romney got a jump on early voters, Gingrich will continue his tour of the Buckeye state through Wednesday, holding a rally in Cleveland before heading back to Washington for a speech to conservatives.