WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Mitt Romney took aim at John McCain Monday over reports he once considered signing on to John Kerry's presidential ticket, the latest effort by the Massachusetts Republican to paint his chief rival as an inconsistent and unpredictable conservative.
"I do recall a story that he was thinking about being John Kerry’s running mate - he gave that some thought," Romney said at an early-morning rally in West Palm Beach. "Had someone asked me that question, there would not have been a nanosecond of thought about it - It would’ve been an immediate laugh. And of course, if someone asked him if he would consider me as a running mate, he would have also laughed immediately.”
"So, we are different," Romney continued. "I’m conservative"
In 2004, reports surfaced that Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, then the Democratic presidential nominee, informally asked McCain if he would consider serving as his running mate. McCain has said he dismissed the notion immediately. But in an interview with the liberal Web site MyDD last April, Kerry said it was actually McCain's surrogates who floated the notion.
"His people…approached me to engage in a discussion about his potentially being on the ticket as vice president," Kerry said. "So his people were active - let's put it that way."
Romney's comments come just a day before Florida Republicans head to the polls in the season's first GOP primary that closes off independents and cross-over Democrats - groups that have been crucial to McCain's victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Also on Monday, Romney took aim at McCain's past record of teaming up with Democrats on campaign finance reform, immigration legislation, and an energy cap and trade-bill.
"If you ask people, 'look at the three things Sen. McCain has done as a senator,' if you want that kind of a liberal Democrat course as president, then you can vote for him," Romney said Monday. "But those three pieces of legislation, those aren't conservative, those aren't Republican, those are not the kind of leadership that we need as we go forward."
McCain sharply responded to Romney in an issued statement, taking aim at his record as governor, and painting him as a constant flip-flopper.
"The truth is, Mitt Romney was a liberal governor of Massachusetts who raised taxes, imposed with Ted Kennedy a big government mandate health care plan that is now a quarter of a billion dollars in the red, and managed his state's economy incompetently, leaving Massachusetts with less job growth than 47 other states," McCain said.