Fighting for his political life, Mitt Romney is taking the gloves off against Newt Gingrich while in Florida Monday. While the substance of his punches are solid, they unfortunately land with all the weight of a cat paw. In an oddly endearing way, the former governor of Massachusetts is clearly uncomfortable playing attack dog — even though he looks like he’s out of central casting for “Wall Street villain” or the guy who fired you or the guy who foreclosed on your mortgage. The list is endless.

Romney rolled into the Sunshine State Monday taking multiple big swings at Gingrich. He’s “highly erratic.” He’s like a “pinball machine.” And entrusting the nomination with the man who cleaned his clock in South Carolina means “We could see an October surprise a day.” Romney wants the former speaker to release papers from the ethics investigation that cost him his speakership and his seat. He wants Gingrich to release his client list so we can “see who his clients were at the time he was lobbying Republican congressmen for Medicare Part D.” Just to see if there was any wrongdoing, mind you. And he hit the man from Georgia, but who stayed in Washington to cash in, on his activities as a “historian” that earned $1.7 million from Freddie Mac but which Gingrich insists wasn’t “lobbying.”

“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck,” Romney said, “it’s a duck.” Poor Mitt. This is the rhetorical equivalent of bringing a Popsicle stick to a street fight. Gingrich’s response to Romney’s flurry of George Foreman-esque punches today was vintage Newt. “We’ve moved from Romney’s pious baloney to Romney’s desperate baloney.”

When it comes to being viscerally mean and looking aggrieved while doing it, no one’s better at it than Gingrich. Just ask “really poor children”, Juan Williams or John King. And if all goes according to plan tonight, NBC’s Brian Williams will join the club.

The Tampa debate would be a perfect time for Mitt to start fighting like Newt. If Romney wants to be his party’s nominee, his substantive slams against Gingrich have to stick. Invoking ducks won’t do it.