Mitt Romney is taking up the underdog mantle in the GOP race, conceding that Newt Gingrich’s leads in the polls make him the frontrunner to win the nomination.
Asked by Politico if Gingrich was the favorite, Romney replied: “He is right now,” before adding that it’s still “a very fluid electorate.”
With the early primary calendar weighted against him, Romney predicted that his fight with Gingrich “could go for months and months,” lasting past Super Tuesday and well into the later states in the process.
“I think I’ll get the nomination,” Romney said. “I can’t predict when…I’ve got — what? — five or six more months to go to make that a reality.”
Democrats are eagerly watching for any signs that Romney is shifting towards the Tea Party wing of the GOP to outflank Gingrich, but Romney stressed in the interview that he would avoid the inflammatory rhetoric that Gingrich and other candidates have employed.
“If…they want language that’s so incendiary that it really excites them, then some can offer that in a primary,” he said. “And you can be assured that they’ll lose in the general. Because the people who decide elections, the people in the middle—by the way, people who last time voted for Barack Obama—do not want to have a president elected based on red meat.”
Romney declined to say whether he felt Gingrich would be “dangerous” as president.
“Look, that’s not the word I would apply,” he replied. “I just don’t think he will be as effective in leading the country or in defeating President Obama as I would be…[O]f the people on the stage, any one of them would be better…than our current president… And so, I’m not going to say outrageous things that can be used to hang them down the road if they happen to become the nominee.”
As for his $10,000 bet with Rick Perry, Romney said “I let people make their own choices” whether gambling is immoral.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.