MANCHESTER, N.H. -- First of all, GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich wants you to understand one thing: It's not called going "negative"; it's "drawing contrasts." But whatever.
Over the past two weeks, Gingrich has stepped up his rhetoric against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, while a super PAC supporting the former House Speaker readies the release of a short film that attacks Romney on his record as the head of a private equity firm in the 1990s.
After a morning townhall meeting for employees of a utility company here, Gingrich outlined the thought process that led him to pivot from a campaign that only talked about his ideas for the country to one that zeroed in on his competitor's past.
"My conclusion after Iowa was very simple: You could not engage in unilateral disarmament when 45 percent of all the ads being run were attacks on me," he said. "Given the terms of the race, and I spent three weeks saying, 'Let's try to find a way to be positive,' and I spent three weeks with Governor Romney saying a variety of foolish things, frankly. 'You need broad shoulders; you need to stand the heat.' I mean fine, okay, I have broad shoulders. I can stand the heat. Now let's see if he has broad shoulders, that he can stand the heat."
Gingrich predicted that after a few more weeks of "drawing contrasts" with Romney, the former Massachusetts governor would have no choice but to hold a press conference explaining himself. "He's going to have to answer a lot of questions," Gingrich said.
Gingrich has criticized Romney for heading up the Bain Capital firm--which would regularly take over and shut down unsuccessful companies. Romney's defenders say that Bain-brokered corporate takeovers are just part of the creative destruction inherent in the capitalism system.
Calling the latest attacks against him "desperate," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded by accusing Gingrich of making "attacks on free enterprise." Still, Gingrich stands by the message of the film--and the tactical thinking behind it.
"Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people manipulating the lives of thousands of other people, and walk off with the money, or is that in fact somehow a little bit of a flawed system?" Gingrich said. "I do draw a distinction between looting a company, leaving behind broken families and broken neighborhoods and leaving behind a factory which should be there."
Gingrich added that it was important for any candidate priming to face President Obama later this year comes under fire during the primary process so the party sends a well-vetted contender to the national stage.
"If somebody's going to crumble," he said, "they better crumble before the nomination."
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