Desperate Romney ramps up attack on 'unfit' rival
REPUBLICAN presidential candidate Mitt Romney has turned his attack dogs on rival Newt Gingrich for the first time in a desperate bid to reignite his election campaign.
With Mr Romney's aides saying they can no longer wait for Mr Gingrich to 'implode on his own' as he stretches ahead in opinion polls, they are now openly attacking the former House of Representatives leader, describing him as "unfit to be president".
Mr Romney is aiming to undermine Mr Gingrich on personal and professional fronts ahead of the 2012 campaign's opening contest in Iowa on January 3.
It represents a U-turn by the one-time frontrunner who had previously all but ignored his Republican opponents and comes as Mr Gingrich has amassed a sizable lead in Iowa.
The criticism yesterday from Mr Romney and his allies, after months of focusing solely on President Barack Obama, comes as the Republican race has developed into a two-man contest. Mr Gingrich's quick rise in national and early-state polls threatens Mr Romney's claim as the likeliest Republican to be chosen to challenge Mr Obama next November.
Mr Gingrich still trails Mr Romney in New Hampshire, the second state to choose a candidate and one that borders the state Mr Romney governed, Massachusetts.
But Mr Gingrich's rise reflects conservative Republicans' growing belief that his bare- knuckles political style has a better chance of defeating Mr Obama.
The president's job approval rating has plummeted over his handling of the US economy. Voters are in a sour mood over an 8.6pc unemployment rate and millions of home mortgage foreclosures.
Mr Romney and Mr Gingrich will clash during a nationally televised debate tonight.
As Mr Romney and other rivals planned town hall meetings in Iowa yesterday, Mr Gingrich planned a single public event: a book signing a few blocks from the US Capitol. Mr Gingrich has combined traditional political campaigning with frequent sales jobs for his books and films that have earned him millions.
The former history professor's constant selling of his books and films while on the campaign trail has led some critics to dismiss him as a candidate more interested in making money than becoming president.
Campaigning in South Carolina, Mr Gingrich brushed off the verbal assault.
"We're focused on remaining positive," he said.