SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Returning to South Carolina on Wednesday, Mitt Romney launched a new attack against former House speaker Newt Gingrich in an apparent effort to blunt any momentum Gingrich may have following his lauded debate performance on Monday.

Former Vice President Al Gore addresses the audience during the Campus Party event in Mexico City July 19, 2011. (STR/REUTERS)

Romney drew a fresh contrast with Gingrich over their respective job creation records as he addressed more than 300 people at an outdoor rally on the grounds of Wofford College here.

“The speaker, just the other day at the debate, was talking about how he created millions of jobs when he was working with the Reagan Administration,” Romney said. “Well, he’d been in Congress two years when Ronald Reagan came to office. That would be like saying 435 congressmen were all responsible for those jobs.”

“Government doesn’t create jobs,” Romney continued. “It’s the private sector that creates jobs. Congressmen taking responsibility or taking credit for helping create jobs is like Al Gore taking credit for the Internet.”

Romney’s remarks came at his first of three scheduled campaign stops in South Carolina on Wednesday. The former Massachusetts governor was in New York Tuesday night for fundrising events.

His new line about Gingrich is only one element of a fresh coordinated assault on Gingrich the Romney campaign launched on Wednesday over Gingrich’s tenure in Congress and after his speakership, including his leadership style, temperament and commitment to conservatism.

Two Romney surrogates who served under Gingrich in the House – former senator Jim Talent and former representative Susan Molinari – held a conference call with reporters to attack Gingrich. Molinari called his reign as speaker “leadership by chaos.” The Romney campaign also released two online videos featuring testimonials from Talent and Molinari.

The last time the Romney campaign took such an aggressive stance against Gingrich was late last year as the former speaker was surging in the polls. A senior Romney adviser dismissed a reporter’s suggestion that they were responding to any Gingrich uptick in their campaign’s internal polling.