Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) – Visiting a state where Newt Gingrich enjoys a commanding lead, Mitt Romney said Saturday he expected to peel off some of the former House speaker's tea party support as voters learn more about Gingrich's record.
Romney was making a two-day swing through South Carolina accompanied by Gov. Nikki Haley, who said she endorsed the GOP candidate in part because he had not worked in Washington.
Romney made that comparison explicit in remarks to the media in Charleston, hitting Gingrich for his work with troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
When asked whether Gingrich's work could be considered lobbying – a characterization Gingrich has strongly denied – Romney said he would let the lawyers decide.
"But you know, when it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, typically it's a duck," he said.
He again pointed to the $1.6 million Gingrich earned consulting with Freddie Mac.
"I think as tea partiers concentrate on that. For instance, they'll say, 'Wow, this really isn't the guy that would represent our views'," Romney said. "I think the tea party is anxious to have people who are outside Washington coming in to change Washington, as opposed to people who stayed in Washington for thirty years."
During a tele-town hall with Iowa voters the same morning, Gingrich said much of the compensation had been used to pay overhead for his Washington consulting firm.
Romney spread some blame onto Congress, as well, as he spoke at a town hall hosted by tea party-backed freshman Rep. Tim Scott on Saturday.
"It's hard to expect a bunch of kitty cats to all come together and march in lock step. That’s just not going to happen," he said. "So the only way to herd cats is to have a leader."
But he did not directly answer a question about Congress' vote Saturday to temporarily extend a payroll tax credit until after the holidays, instead blaming the president for "demonizing and attacking" rather than leading.