Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Mitt Romney offered a stark warning to fellow Republicans that nominating Newt Gingrich could end in a series of surprises that could torpedo the party's hopes to re-take the White House in the fall.
Calling the former House speaker "highly erratic," Romney cautioned they could see "an October surprise a day from Newt Gingrich," if he were to become the GOP nominee.
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"He's gone from pillar to post almost like a pinball machine, from item to item in a way which is highly erratic and does not suggest a stable, thoughtful course which is normally associated with leadership," he told reporters in Tampa Monday.
The harsh rhetoric is the latest escalation in a wildly shifting race between the two men that has become increasingly negative as the party girds for a drawn-out nomination fight.
Days after Romney said in a CNN debate that he regretted the time he spent discussing his opponents instead of President Barack Obama, the candidate changed course after a resounding defeat by Gingrich in South Carolina.
Speaking with reporters, he called on Gingrich to release a list of detailed documentation: the "work product" from his work with troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac, records from a House ethics investigation into Gingrich's activities as speaker, and a client list from Gingrich's post-congressional career – activity Romney labeled "lobbying."
"At the time he was lobbying Republican congressmen for Medicare Part D, was he working, or were his entities working with any health care companies that could have benefited from that?" Romney said. "That could represent not just evidence of lobbying but potentially wrongful activity of some kind."
Romney also called on Gingrich to return the seven-figure sum his firm earned for its work with Freddie Mac.
Gingrich has said the majority of that sum went to pay overhead and for staff at his firm.
Romney's press conference followed a housing roundtable in which Romney laid the groundwork to tie Gingrich to the foreclosure crisis gripping Florida.
The GOP candidate listened sympathetically to a group of Floridians who had suffered from falling home values and a troubled mortgage market. One woman said she could not find work and said her home was in the foreclosure process, while another man said he had considered moving out of the country in an effort to make his funds stretch further.
Romney blamed a list of agencies for failing to predict and prevent the growing housing bubble.
"There was every effort on the part of the banking industry, Wall Street, Congress, the banking guarantors Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to keep it going," he told the group.
Later he made the connection to Gingrich more explicit.
"I wish Speaker Gingrich was here this morning to listen to those stories," Romney told the media, saying he hoped Gingrich had told Freddie Mac: "that this was a crisis about to erupt and it could be devastating to the economy to American families and that there should be a dramatic shift in the policies of Freddie Mac as well policies of government."
He added: "I didn't hear that nationally I didn't hear him making those warnings to the nation."
Meanwhile, the Romney campaign also released a harsh new television ad attacking Gingrich for having "cashed in" on the foreclosure crisis.
"While Florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in," the ad said.
The former Massachusetts governor defended his new attacks on Gingrich Monday as a description of "distinctions" between himself and the other GOP hopefuls, and signaled he would continue this new tack in two debates this week in Florida.
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Glen – just exacly how has Obama been leading us on a path of the destruction of America? With mostly Republican ideas to try to get something, anything done? Republican policy has shifted wealth from those who can least afford it to those who don't need it for over three decades now, crashing the economy how many times? Yet it's all Obama's fault. Not liking him because he's a Democrat is one thing. Accusing him of destruction he inherited, and which the Republicans want to maintain in order to make sure he serves only one term so we can give them the chance to pick the rest of our bones clean, is dishonest, and I think you know that. The Republicans are holding back our climb out of deep financial trouble and have been for three years, and you want to blame it on the figurehead in the White House. Like I said, dishonest.
We need leadership in the whitehouse not ego maniacs like Newt & Obama. A VOTE FOR MITT IS A VOTE FOR A LEADER
He has convicted Gingrich publically. Has Fannie and Freddie been convicted already of these accusations of the foreclosure crisis? NO! Yet Gingrich is publically convicted by Romney. If Gingrich had done something wrong, he'd be in jail wouldn't he? Romney, has from the beginning, has been afraid of Gingrich. He went after HIM after his surges in December. Gingrich was winning the SC and Florida at that time. Then Romney started the ad attack and Gingrich dropped. Now that he's surged again, here comes Romney with more ads to try to take down Gingrich. Sounds like Romney's advisors are telling him to throw everything they can at Gingrich to try to lower before Florida. But the resounding thing is that the American people are sick of ALL candidates, and if this is the best we've got to choose from, then Gingrich is better than Romney. I like Gingrich smarts and he is equal to Obama. Can go up against him better than Romney. Romney is a stumbling, unsure candidate who is being "handled" by his handlers towards a push to win.
Ok...that's all such a childish game between you millionaire GOP clowns, but what are either of you going to do to fix the problems we Americans are facing in this country.
All we ever hear from the GOP are attacks on each other and everyone else.
It's the aprty of no solutions and all around ugliness.
A fight to see who gets to spend our tax dollars next.
Is it not about time that the GOP elite realized that the American voters do not approve of their actions in congress any more than the elite Dems.
As a matter of fact there is no difference in the two groups. They have no new ideas on how to solve any issue that would correct the many problems of America.
Their only sloution is to throw money at the problem and hope to be reelected.
Time has come for a real change!
Interesting. As much as Romney goes negative and loud-mouthed about Gingrich, he is only helping Gingrich get more attention and votes. Go Mitt. This GinGRINCH is for you. I have a feeling by the time FL elections are over, Gingrich would have go enough national attention from Social / Christian CONServatives who will vote for him. With over 150 delegates in TX alone, Perry may help GinGRINCH to muster more and more delegates. Republican Establishment is sitting and scratching their heads.
Kind of fun and also kind of sad how these guys are taking each other apart.
Big deal! Only difference between now and New Hampshire and Iowa, is that he can't say it isn't him saying it. He has already done and said it all. Sorry, Mitt. I'm done with you. I can't stand it anymore.
As they continue to eat their own...
@vic , nashville ,tn
The US tax rate for investment returns is 15%, no matter how much the returns are. He's not using any loopholes by having a 15% tax rate, as almost all of his income comes from investments.
Even if he has offshore investments, his tax rate still follows US laws without using any loopholes.
Ooooh is this the "angry" Romney? LOL If Mitts the GOP nominee I'm out!
A party at war with itself. Too rich.
Well, isn't it kind of the point that the loophole was built into the law? The rich guys wrote the law so that they could get away with paying little in taxes while the rest of us subsidize them. That's how a loophole works. It's a legal way to steal from the middle class. If they wrote it into the law that a 1%er could murder anybody he wanted to, it would be a loophole, too. The rich don't have to break laws, because they make the laws. That's at the heart of what's wrong with our system. It is of, by, and for the very rich.
All I know is I am not better off than 3 years ago, my health insurance went up, but it wasn't supposed to, and my paycheck is approsimately $300 less each month due to the higher taxes that were not supposed to happen!!! More examples of the democrats "trickle up poverty."
Someone is getting desperate! LOL
Face it Mitt, people are just not fond of you.
I invest my money here and hiring Americans but I pay more tax than Romney
Romney invest in offshore high profit and less tax that is called real tax loopholes
@v_mag good point
The undisputed king of flip-flopping who has more faces than a house of mirrors is calling someone erractic. That's one of the funnier things I've heard lately.