MIAMI — Newt Gingrich started to turn Florida's Republican primary into a two-man contest Friday by hitting opponent Mitt Romney from the right, left and center at Miami's Versailles Restaurant and during a headquarters opening in Orlando.
Gingrich also spoke at length to hordes of reporters and released a detailed plan on cracking-down on Raul Castro's regime in Cuba — an issue that Romney didn't discuss in-depth during his Miami stop in November when he avoided talking to local reporters.
But Romney doesn't need to talk to the press. He's getting more than a third of the Republican vote, while Gingrich barely cracks 25 percent in polls.
Romney has also blanketed the airwaves and mailboxes with his message as more than 107,000 Republicans have cast mail-in ballots.
Is it too late for Gingrich, who has yet to send mail or advertise on TV?
"No," Gingrich said.
"We have a mailer going out now, we have other things going on now, but look, he's raised millions of dollars from Wall Street," Gingrich said. "If you just measure by money, he's always going to have more money than we do."
Gingrich lambasted Romney as a "Massachusetts moderate" who's "pro-tax, pro-abortion and pro-gun control." He also criticized Romney for his record as a private-equity guru at Bain Capital, which profited on occasion from shuttering companies and laying people off.
That last line of attack, which could find fertile ground in job loss-stricken Florida, has angered conservatives, who say it sounds like Occupy Wall Street language befitting a liberal. And so far it hasn't seemed to hurt Romney, who is surging in the polls after winning in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But Gingrich said Romney's record could haunt him in a general election, where President Barack Obama will excoriate him for being an out-of-touch elite. He also noted that Obama would probably raise more than Romney, who has $19 million in the bank.
"If money's the only solution then Obama will be re-elected," Gingrich said. "What we have as you saw today is real messages for the people of Florida, and I think that overall we'll do just fine here."
Only if he wins South Carolina, though. And Romney leads there right now. The primary is Jan. 21.
"I will win South Carolina," Gingrich said, predicting that voters there and here won't like Romney's moderate record and style — which is a likely asset in the general election, however.
Citing Florida's high number of home foreclosures, Gingrich said he wanted to repeal the Democratic Dodd-Frank Act, which he described as a failure because it did nothing to stop small banks from going under.
Gingrich also called for the reinstitution of a portion of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act to prevent banks from engaging in the type of risky investments that helped lead to the financial meltdown.
Amid references to working with Ronald Reagan and supply-side economics, Gingrich said the ultimate solution to the housing problem was to fix the economy. He wants a flat tax and no tax on capital gains such as stock profits.
Gingrich subtly took a measure of credit for the growth of 11 million new jobs when he was the U.S. House speaker, but gave little credit to then-President Bill Clinton. He touted his work with Clinton, though, as evidence that he knows how to end Washington gridlock.
But Gingrich didn't mention that the federal government on his watch effectively shut down amid a tussle with Clinton, whom he had impeached. One of the House impeachment managers, Bill McCollum, is one of Gingrich's Florida campaign chairmen and helped open his new Orlando office.
The crowd at Little Havana's Versailles Restaurant murmured in assent during the speech Gingrich gave at the invitation of South Florida Conservatives.
Though Gingrich's attacks have rallied some conservatives to his opponent's side, Romney's campaign showed a sign of worry as it began running TV ads in Florida defending Bain Capital.
A pro-Romney political committee is also defending Bain and criticizing Gingrich for his "baggage": an ethics fine, hefty fees to consult for Freddie Mac and supporting former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi's climate-change legislation.
Romney has disavowed ties to the political committee and said at a recent debate that he hadn't seen the ads, though he ticked off details of their contents.
Gingrich on Friday condemned some of the ads from a pro-Gingrich committee that attacked Romney over Bain.
Polls suggest that conservatives are starting to make up their minds and choose Romney, who split the self-described tea-party vote in a recent Quinnipiac University survey in Florida. Many say they're outraged by the Bain attacks.
At Versailles restaurant, Gingrich's daughter, Key Biscayne resident Kathy Lubbers, briefly addressed the crowd in Spanish and asked them to vote for her father. Gingrich admitted he was highly caffeinated.
"After two café cubanos out front, I am much more energized than when I first got here," Gingrich said.