Video: NYT: Romney calls Gingrich 'zany'

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updated 12/14/2011 5:26:07 PM ET 2011-12-14T22:26:07

Mitt Romney is sharpening his warning to Republicans about the consequences of nominating Newt Gingrich, declaring in an interview on Wednesday: “Zany is not what we need in a president.”

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“Zany is great in a campaign. It’s great on talk radio. It’s great in print, it makes for fun reading,” Mr. Romney told The New York Times. “But in terms of a president, we need a leader, and a leader needs to be someone who can bring Americans together.”

With 20 days before the voting begins at the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Romney is intensifying his forceful attack on the credibility of Mr. Gingrich, who has emerged as his leading rival in the Republican nominating fight. He has shed his year-long reluctance against doing interviews, hoping to change the narrative surrounding his candidacy before the holidays.

Republican dilemma: Electability or ideology?

As his campaign prepares an even more aggressive attempt to slow Mr. Gingrich’s rise, Mr. Romney smiled as he portrayed the former House Speaker as ill-suited in belief and temperament to lead the nation. He offered faint praise for Mr. Gingrich, conceding that he might have a satisfying side to voters, but was not prepared for the job.

“He’s a great historian,” Mr. Romney said. “If we need a historian leading the country, I’m sure people would find that attractive. I actually think you need someone who actually understands the economy leading the country.”

Shortly before lunchtime on Wednesday, Mr. Romney took a break from a whirlwind day of fund-raising in Manhattan for the interview with The Times. His tone was upbeat and suggested there was no air of panic inside his campaign, saying that his second quest for the Republican presidential nomination had made him wiser, calmer and less reliant on victories in early voting states.

“I hope to be able to win in the early states,” Mr. Romney said. “I’d like to win Iowa, I’d like to win New Hampshire.

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“But if a candidate didn’t win in either one, let’s say one of the people in this contest — Rick Santorum, you know — didn’t win either one, do you write him off? No, you say, you know, in this processes, people have jumped up in the polls, gotten support, you recognize people are not out until they’ve actually closed the doors and turned off the lights.”

As he sat in a suite of the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, Mr. Romney said he was confident that his strategy of holding back throughout the year was a wise one. He said that the distinctions on Mr. Gingrich seemed to be working.

“People are taking a closer look at Speaker Gingrich,” Mr. Romney said. “And like other people who bumped up in the polls in this last year, as they take a closer look, some are happy with what they see and some would like to see something else and recognize that he may not be exactly what they wanted.”

The article, "Romney Warns of Nominating 'Zany' Gingrich," first appeared on The Caucus blog of The New York Times.

Copyright © 2013 The New York Times

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