TAMPA, Florida—Mitt Romney says he was "outgunned" in South Carolina, blaming attacks from Newt Gingrich for his defeat there earlier this month.
"I needed to make sure that instead of being outgunned in terms of attacks, that I responded aggressively — and hopefully that will have served me well here," Romney said when asked by a reporter what lesson he took from his defeat in South Carolina.
"You know, in South Carolina we were vastly outspent with negative ads attacking me and we stood back and spoke about President Obama and suffered the consequence of that," he added.
On the cusp of victory in Florida, Romney says he came out swinging here to prevent Gingrich from "defining" him, positioning himself as an unwilling negative campaigner forced into attacking his rival because that's how it's done.
"I would like to be spending more of our time focusing on President Obama…but I’m not going to stand back and allow another candidate to define me," Romney said. "It would be wonderful if campaigns were nothing but positive," he added, "but that's certainly not the reality"
But the truth is that Romney outspent Gingrich about 2-1 in South Carolina, and over 4-1 in here the Sunshine State. Romney has also deployed an army of surrogates to bombard Gingrich with negative soundbites and statements. And Gingrich unilaterally withheld from running negative ads in Iowa, and saw his poll numbers collapse in the state amid millions of dollars in attacks from a pro-Romney Super PAC.
Speaking to the press hours before polls close, Romney continued to swipe Gingrich's last-ditch attacks aside, calling his comments "sad," rather than engaging his assertions head-on.
"His comments most recently attacking me have been really quite sad, and I think painfully revealing about the Speaker and what he’s willing to say and do to take the nomination," Romney said. "I really can’t let him say those things about me without responding."