LADY LAKE, Florida– As the race in Florida draws to a close, Newt Gingrich is trying to draw a much sharper contrast between himself and his “liberal” GOP rival Mitt Romney.
“I am, in fact, the legitimate heir of the Reagan movement, not some liberal from Massachusetts,” Gingrich told the several thousand-person crowd at The Villages, a retirement community outside of Orlando.
In the past, the former House speaker always referred to Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate,” but early Sunday Gingrich began labeling the former Massachusetts governor as a “liberal” instead.
“This party is not going to nominate somebody who is a pro-abortion, pro gun control, pro tax increase liberal,” Gingrich told reporters about Romney outside Idlewild Baptist Church after attending services there this morning.
Gingrich has seen his poll numbers slip in the Sunshine State, where at one point he was beating Romney by a sizable margin. In the new NBC News/Marist poll released Sunday morning, Romney pulled ahead of Gingrich by 15 points – 42 percent to 27 percent.
The former speaker, though, said he was not discouraged by the polls and reiterated to reporters that he would take his campaign to Tampa in August.
“We will go all the way to the convention,” Gingrich said , adding that the convention might be a broken one.
“We have no evidence yet that Romney anywhere is coming close to getting a majority and I think when you take all the non-Romney votes, it's very likely that at the convention there will be a non-Romney majority and maybe a very substantial one,” he said.
The conservative vote in Florida seems to be split between Gingrich and Rick Santorum, who is polling at 16 percent in the new poll. Adding together the two men’s numbers would in turn pull one candidate ahead of Romney, which Gingrich hopes will eventually happen.
“Rick's going to get a decent vote … on Tuesday. I have no doubt the two of us are going to collectively outscore Romney,” Gingrich said. “And at that point it might be a pretty good conversation” to have with Santorum about trying to consolidate all the conservatives behind one candidate, he added.