The Washington Times - January 23, 2012, 08:32AM

TAMPA, Fla. — Looking to slow former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s momentum after his victory in the South Carolina GOP primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential team called Monday for Mr. Gingrich to release the consulting contracts he held with housing giant Freddie Mac — just before airing a blisteringly critical television spot here ahead of the state’s Jan. 31 primary.

The Romney camp suggested — in a morning email blast and then a conference call with reporters — that Mr. Gingrich is trying to cover up the fact that he lobbied members of Congress on behalf of the mortgage housing giant, which reportedly paid him $1.6 million — though Mr. Gingrich says he advised them as a “historian.”

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“Newt Gingrich says he was not a lobbyist — he was just a politician who was paid millions after he left Congress to influence his friends in Washington,” said Gail Gitcho, Mr. Romney’s communications director, in the email.

The Romney team followed up the attack by flexing its advertising muscle, launching a stinging attack contending that Mr. Gingrich benefited from the large number of home foreclosures in Florida.

“While Florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in,” the narrator says in the 30-second spot. “Gingrich was paid over $1.6 million by the scandal-ridden agency that helped create the crisis.”

The ad also says Mr. Gingrich “resigned from Congress in disgrace,” mocks his argument that he worked as a “historian” for Freddie Mac and warns that President Obama would “be very happy” if Mr. Gingrich won the nomination — suggesting the Georgia Republican would be an easier opponent for the Democratic president in the general election in November.

The multipronged attack comes after Mr. Gingrich and others have pressed Mr. Romney to release his own tax returns while attacking his record in the private sector as an equity investor. It also comes as the GOP nomination fight moves here to Florida, where it generally has been believed that Mr. Romney’s strong fundraising operation gives him an edge in the costly media market.

But Mr. Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina on Saturday has cast doubt over Mr. Romney’s candidacy, in particular the argument by the former Massachusetts governor that he is the most electable candidate in the race. The South Carolina defeat also raises fresh doubts over Mr. Romney’s ability to fend off the Georgia Republican if Mr. Gingrich continues to solidify support among the party’s conservative base.