COLUMBIA, S.C. — Mitt Romney’s campaign on Wednesday intensified its criticism of Newt Gingrich, seeking to portray the former House Speaker as an unreliable and bombastic leader as he gains momentum here in South Carolina.
Top campaign surrogates, former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent and former New York Rep. Susan Molinari, told reporters that Gingrich ultimately derailed the conservative cause while leading the party in the mid ‘90’s — and contributed to President Clinton’s decisive re-election in 1996.
“He’s not reliable,” said Talent, ripping Gingrich for his criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan and attacks on Romney’s history at Bain Capital. “Yes, he can say exciting things. He also says things that undermine the conservative movement.”
Added Molinari: “I can only describe his style as leadership by chaos. Clearly, when Newt is in the room, Newt becomes the focus. We feel very strongly as Republicans that the issue has to be President Obama’s performance in office.”
Team Romney deployed a similar strategy in the buildup to Iowa — where Gingrich plummeted after an initial surge in the polls — dispatching lawmakers to chronicle their dealings with the Georgia congressman, who was notoriously forced out of his leadership role.
Romney on Wednesday released a new Web ad on Gingrich entitled, "Undisciplined."
But the focus on Gingrich also underscores his traction with voters in the Palmetto State. After a strong debate performance in Myrtle Beach, Gingrich is asking conservatives to unite behind his candidacy as somewhat of a last stand to the former Massachusetts governor, who remains the overwhelming frontrunner to win Saturday’s primary.