(CNN) – Mitt Romney fired back Thursday after rival Newt Gingrich said his campaign would contest the winner-take-all allocation of Florida’s delegates, following Romney’s primary win earlier in the week.
“It would be nice if Speaker Gingrich would challenge the rules before he has lost, as opposed to after he has lost,” Romney said on Fox News.
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Under Republican National Committee rules, Florida lost half its delegates in a penalty after the state moved up its primary date earlier than scheduled in the nominating calendar.
The RNC also stipulates any state holding a primary before April 1 must allocate delegates proportionally, rather than a winner-take-all scenario, as is the case in Florida.
On Wednesday, the RNC issued a memo saying it had imposed the maximum penalty against Florida by stripping half the delegates and said any changes to the delegate allocation would have to come after a formal petition from the campaign to the delegate committee in Tampa, site of the 2012 Republican convention.
“We knew what the rules were going into it, but now that he lost Florida, he wants to find some way to do better,” Romney said. “I doubt it’s going to come down to a contest of, you know, he’s got six more delegates or I have eight more in this state. I think one or the other of the people in the race will end up with the lion’s share of the delegates.”
In an interview later on the same Fox News program, Gingrich sounded confident that the delegate allocation would switch to proportional before Republicans choose their nominee.
Saying “there’s no question” the delegate count would change, the former speaker said such a switch could substantially alter the GOP horserace.
“That means that Romney’s advantage, instead of being 50 delegates, will be about a net of 10, and that makes a huge difference,” Gingrich said. “I expect it will be a fight somewhere between now and there, but I’m told by the lawyers that it’s pretty clear that it’s supposed to be proportional.”
– CNN’s Joe Johns contributed to this report.