POLITICS: Romney calls Gingrich 'lifelong politician'

Mitt Romney

MIAMI -- Mitt Romney aggressively criticized rival Newt Gingrich on Tuesday, calling the former House speaker a "lifelong politician" and questioning Gingrich's ability to fix the country's struggling economy.

Romney, speaking a day after Gingrich criticized him during a campaign stop in South Carolina, told Fox News that Gingrich wasn't as likely to beat President Barack Obama in a general election.

"I think to get President Obama out of office, you're going to have to bring something to the race that's different than what he brings. He's a lifelong politician," Romney said of Gingrich. "I think you have to have the credibility of understanding how the economy works. And I do."

Throughout the campaign, Romney has emphasized his business experience over his political tenure as governor of Massachusetts.

Gingrich says he was speaker, not lobbyist

BLUFFTON -- Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich said he didn't need to be a lobbyist after his congressional career because he was paid so handsomely merely to give speeches.

The former House speaker has raked in millions of dollars at his network of for-profit consulting firms, think tanks and speaking engagements. During a meeting with South Carolina voters at a shopping center Tuesday, he confronted a suggestion that he sought to turn his tenure as the House's top Republican into a role of for-hire power broker.

"I did no lobbying of any kind -- period," Gingrich said. "I'm going to be really direct, OK? I was charging $60,000 a speech. And the number of speeches was going up, not down. Normally, celebrities leave and they gradually sell fewer speeches every year. We were selling more."

Poll shows tea party support fading

WASHINGTON -- The influence of the tea party movement appears to be on the wane -- even in congressional districts that elected tea party candidates last year, according to a new survey.

The report from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released Tuesday showed support for the tea party dropping nationwide, with more Americans viewing the movement unfavorably. The view of the Republican Party in the 60 districts represented by members of the House Tea Party Caucus has also suffered.

Overall, according to Pew, more Americans (27 percent) disagree with the goals of the movement than agree (20 percent), with half of those surveyed having no opinion. A year ago, those numbers were reversed, with 27 percent of Americans favoring the tea party's aims.

The decline has been just as steep in districts that sent a tea party follower to Congress. A year ago, 33 percent in those districts said they agreed with the tea party, now that number is just 25 percent. In contrast, those who disagreed with the tea party shot up from 18 percent to 23 percent. (In March 2010, just 10 percent of those surveyed said they disagreed with the tea party.)

Several of the freshman members of the tea party caucus, such as Reps. Chip Cravaack of Minnesota, Joe Walsh of Illinois and Allen West of Florida, were elected from swing districts, which could have dragged down some of the overall approval numbers.

But the survey also found that the image of the GOP is also taking a beating in districts that sent a tea partyer to Congress. In those tea party districts, the approval rating for the Republican Party has dropped from 51 percent to 41 percent over the last 14 months.

The 60 members of the caucus include 17 freshmen Republicans elected in 2010, as well as 43 incumbents who were re-elected. Missing from the survey were the reasons many have soured on the movement.