Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich rode a strong performance and crowd enthusiasm at a debate in South Carolina to victory in that state’s primary, but the crowds at two debates in Florida this week haven’t been as wild for Gingrich. Now his campaign is claiming that rival Mitt Romney’s campaign stacked the audience at Thursday’s debate with its supporters to shift the energy toward Romney, the Huffington Post reported.
“They definitely packed the room," Kevin Kellems, a Gingrich adviser, told the Post.
But that’s not the case, according to both the Florida Republican Party and the Romney campaign. The party, which doled out 900 of the 1,200 tickets, says most of them went to “rank and file” Republicans.
MIAMI —Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said Friday that the reason he seemed less combative during Thursday’s televised debate was that he was shocked by what he described as rival Mitt Romney’s “totally dishonest” replies to several questions.
In a telephone interview, Gingrich cited Romney’s remarks on immigration, his vote for Democrat Paul Tsongas in 1992 and whether he knew about an ad his campaign is running against Gingrich.
“I think it’s the most blatantly dishonest performance by a presidential candidate I’ve ever seen,” Gingrich said. At several moments during the debate, Gingrich simply leaned away from his lectern and looked down at his feet because he was so stunned by some of Romney’s statements, he said. He didn’t engage Romney at the time, he said, because “I wanted to fact check. I wanted to make sure he was as totally dishonest as I thought he was."
Gingrich spoke as a new poll from Quinnipiac University showed Romney back on top in Florida’s high-stakes Republican primary, adding to the momentum for the former Massachusetts governor following a strong debate performance Thursday night.