Gingrich says he's retooled his pitch to be more positive and solutions-oriented, a move away from his sometimes-caustic attacks on Romney's record at the investment firm Bain Capital. But he relished a chance to knock Santorum, who suggested last week that women should not serve in military combat.
"I just think Rick completely misunderstands the nature of modern warfare," Gingrich said. "The fact is if you are serving in uniform in Iraq or Afghanistan ... you're in combat, whatever your technical assignment."
Gingrich's wife, Callista, has begun speaking publicly on his behalf after months of standing silently at his side. Her willingness to step out reflects an effort to improve his standing with female voters, who polls show have been particularly skeptical of his candidacy. One reason may be a marital history that includes two divorces and acknowledged infidelities.
Gingrich's supporters dismiss Santorum's rise as rookie luck, suggesting the former Pennsylvania senator has simply been the beneficiary of the air war that's been trained on Gingrich.
"Santorum is not the recipient of 13,000 false advertisements in Iowa, Florida and South Carolina," Tyler said, writing off Santorum's recent victories as "meaningless" because the states he won will not award delegates until later in the spring.
Gingrich and his advisers have mapped out a strategy focusing on Super Tuesday states including Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio and Tennessee; Alabama and Mississippi, which hold primaries March 13; and Texas, whose primary is April 3. That state's governor, Rick Perry, endorsed Gingrich after dropping out of the Republican presidential contest last month.
Campaign officials insist fundraising is going well enough for Gingrich to be competitive in a number of states. But he hasn't run any television advertising since the Florida primary, nor has the Winning Our Future super PAC. The group's major patron, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's family, has contributed $11 million to the super PAC but hasn't announced plans for any further financial help.
With so many competitive primaries and caucuses looming and attention focused on the contest between Romney and Santorum, some supporters are asking whether Gingrich's luck may have finally run out. He vehemently pushes back on that suggestion.
"I'm still here," he told tea party supporters, to loud applause.
Bob Walker, a former Pennsylvania congressman and a top adviser to Gingrich, pleaded for patience.
"People who are out there calling for him to get out don't seem to understand his whole political career," Walker said. "We always knew it would be a long campaign. This is just one more example of the campaign taking its course."
Follow Beth Fouhy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/bfouhy
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