Mitt Romney unveils political assault on Newt Gingrich


There's just two days to go until ABC's Republican debate in Iowa- and the battle is getting personal. Romney's campaign is turning up the heat on frontrunner Gingrich. They're rolling out /*GOP*/ surrogates to tout Romney's integrity and blast Gingrich's record.

"He's not a reliable and trusted conservative leader because he's not a reliable or trust worthy leader," said former Missouri Senator Tim Talent.

"Is this the kind of person that is always going to make me proud in the oval office and I'm never going to worry will he embarrass America?" said Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.

The blistering barrage from the Romney camp comes as new polls show /*Gingrich*/ with a big lead. So what's the Gingrich appeal?

Polling shows several candidates, including Gingrich, are seen as authentic- truly believing what they say. But not /*Romney*/ though.

Meanwhile, Romney and Gingrich both score well when it comes to qualities of competence. Which means Gingrich is the only one candidate that is seen as both authentic and competent.

"What Romney is trying to do right now is slowly build the case against Newt Gingrich," said ABC News Political Director Amy Walter. "There are a lot, a lot of issues Newt Gingrich has to deal with, there's a lot of baggage there."

The baggage includes allegations of ethics violations, blame for the government shutdown in 1995, and a tumultuous personal history- including his three marriages.

To hammer home that point, the Romney campaign released a new ad that sends a not-so-subtle message to voters: Romney is a family man and has been married to his wife for 42 years.

So far, Gingrich is holding his fire and has shown little interest in picking a fight with Romney.

"I'm going to stay positive," said Gingrich. "I'm going to talk about how we solve the country's problems. And I have one opponent, Barack Obama."

On Thursday /*President Barack Obama*/ fired back at the GOP candidates who have criticized the president, saying he is engaged in a foreign policy of appeasement.

"Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of the 30 top al Qaeda leaders who've been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement," said Obama.

The /*Republican*/ presidential candidates will debate again Saturday night in Iowa. ABC's Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will bring the debate to live on /*ABC7*/ at 6 p.m.

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