The Romney campaign is in all-out attack mode on Monday, pulling no punches against Newt Gingrich since the former House speaker won last Saturday's South Carolina primary.
The Romney campaign will launch a major wave of television advertisements against Gingrich in Florida, engaging in the kind of negative "contrast" ads that had previously been left to a super PAC spending on the former Massachusetts governor's behalf.
Romney himself has dropped any pretense of niceness against Gingrich, too. Romney and his surrogates are going aggressively after the ethics charge that plagued Gingrich in office, and are demanding he release records of his work for troubled mortgage lender Freddie Mac since leaving office.
"I think as you look at the speaker’s record over time, it’s been highly erratic," Romney said of Gingrich after an event in Tampa this morning. "He’s gone from pillar to post almost like a pinball machine, from item to item in a way which is highly erratic. It does not suggest a stable, thoughtful course which is normally associated with leadership."
A senior campaign adviser suggested that the attacks won't be limited to the campaign trail and airwaves; Romney will make the criticism in person at tonight's NBC News-National Journal debate, and likely at a subsequent debate this week on Thursday night.
The attacks are illustrative of the way Gingrich has enjoyed a revival -- again -- over the past week of the campaign, culminating in his Palmetto State victory. The Romney campaign, which had run a frontrunner-like campaign that stuck mostly to attacks on President Obama, not Republican rivals, has pivoted quickly to stanch Gingrich's momentum.
Having already spent millions in the state, the Romney campaign placed a major, $2.3 million broadcast buy across the state of Florida from Jan. 25-31. The buy will help air the campaign's new ad, "Florida Families," which highlights Gingrich's paid work for Freddie Mac during the lead up to the collapse of the housing market, a crash that's particularly affected Florida.
The ad accompanies demands by Romney that Gingrich release records associated with that contract with Freddie Mac, which the former speaker has repeatedly denied involved any lobbying work.
(Gingrich, on "Good Morning America" earlier Monday, said he's "Very comfortable" with releasing those records, but said his staff is working through a series of confidentiality agreements in order to make their release possible.)
Perhaps the harshest attacks, though, came from an erstwhile presidential candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Pawlenty, a Romney surrogate, suggested that nominating Gingrich would essentially mean a second term for President Obama. It's a direct strike at the electability argument Gingrich has begun to craft for himself -- an issue on which Romney typically excels, but on which Gingrich beat him in South Carolina, according to exit poll data.
"The possibility of Newt Gingrich being our nominee is essentially just handing the election over to Barack Obama, if it gets to that," he said on a conference call.