- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2012

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Mitt Romney said Monday that the more people learn about rival Newt Gingrich’s lucrative work for housing finance giant Freddie Mac, the less likely they will be to support him in the Tuesday’s primary — comments that dovetail with new polls that show the former House speaker is losing ground as the vote approaches.

The former Massachusetts governor said at a rally here that it has been “painfully revealing to watch” as Mr. Gingrich deals with the Freddie Mac flap in the candidate debates here over the past week, looking for some sort of attack that will help him regain footing in the race.

“I think the reason he isn’t doing so well is because of those two debates. Don’t you think?” Mr. Romney told the hundreds of people gathered here in Pioneer Park. “He said he didn’t do well in the first debate because the crowd was so quiet — and made it hard. And in the second debate he said he didn’t do well because the crowd was so well.”

The real reason, Mr. Romney said, that Mr. Gingrich has seen his political stock plummet is that voters are becoming more familiar with the $1.6 million he received doing “consulting” work for Freddie Mac in the years before the firm required a massive taxpayer bailout.

“[He] made money from Freddie Mac, the very institution that helped stand behind the huge housing crises here in Florida,” the Republican frontrunner said, standing alongside Florida Rep. Connie Mack and Pam Bondi, the state’s attorney general. “If you are part of the housing crisis, you are probably not going to get elected president.”

The appearance followed the release of two new polls that showed Mr. Romney is pulling away in the Sunshine State.

A new Suffolk University/WSVN-TV poll of likely Republican primary voters showed Mr. Romney’s leading Mr. Gingrich 47 percent to 27 percent. And a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday showed Mr. Romney now leading Mr. Gingrich 43 percent to 29 percent. A week ago, Mr. Romney led his chief rival by only 2 percentage points in the same poll.

Mr. Romney told the crowd here on Monday that he’s growing increasingly optimistic about how he will do in the primary.

“With a turnout like this, I’m beginning to think we might win the thing,” he said.

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