WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The top Republican presidential contenders spent the day before today’s Florida primary flying from city to city around the Sunshine State – and letting fly with accusations as soon as they hit the ground.
Mitt Romney said John McCain is a tax-and-spend buddy of the Democrats.
McCain said Romney is a tax-and-spend liberal.
Both said the other is a flip-flopper: McCain on the president’s tax cuts; Romney, who’s been dogged by his reversal on abortion, on virtually everything else.
Playing it nice: third-place contenders former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani has acknowledged that he might lose and will make an announcement about his campaign’s future on Wednesday.
Romney started at dawn at a West Palm Beach gas station, where he bashed McCain as a gas-tax-raiser because of his global-warming plan. Romney also used the loaded words “Clinton” and “Lieberman” to connect McCain with Democrats, while comparing himself to Ronald Reagan.
Romney listed three pieces of legislation bearing McCain’s name: the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which Romney called ineffective; a failed McCain-Kennedy immigration measure, which he called the “amnesty bill”; and a proposed McCain-Lieberman energy bill, which he said would increase energy costs for the typical Florida family by $1,000.
“He’s known for some things that are frankly not conservative kinds of movements, but instead would have pulled the nation to the left,” Romney told a throng of cheering supporters at a Fort Myers airport. “And I just don’t think those liberal answers are what America is looking for. Not for the Republican Party or for any party for that matter. I believe that instead we should take our inspiration from Ronald Reagan and his vision of America.”
In Jacksonville, McCain, surrounded by war vets and military figures who lauded his national security credentials, fired back, letting fly with the “L” word: liberal.
“As the liberal governor of the state of Massachusetts, he raised taxes by $730 million. The state of Massachusetts was saddled with a quarter of a billion-dollar debt for his government-mandated health care system,” McCain said.
“One thing I have to give Romney credit for is he’s consistently taken both sides of any major issue; he has consistently flip-flopped on every major issue of the campaign.”
Huckabee, after a brief Pensacola appearance Monday, went silent in Florida almost all day as he stumped in Nashville, Tenn., before returning to Tampa. Giuliani cruised the state, smiling while all but acknowledging that he’s finished in Florida and, perhaps, in his White House hunt.