Wheels down in New Hampshire: Newt Gingrich high-tails it out of Iowa

Chris Moody

CONCORD, N.H. -- After coming in fourth place in Iowa--8 percentage points behind third-place finisher Ron Paul--Newt Gingrich chartered a late-night plane to New Hampshire and was in the air even before the full Iowa caucus results were even tallied.

But first, he made a brief stop in Des Moines to address a small but enthusiastic crowd at the city's convention center. There, he vowed to take Mitt Romney to the mat in New Hampshire for running a punishing negative ad campaign against him that political observers cite as one of the primary reasons for sinking Gingrich's campaign in the Hawkeye State. "We are not going to go out and run nasty ads. We are not going to go out and run 30-second ads. But," Gingrich said, emphasizing the last word, "I do deserve the right to go out and tell the truth."

The message was clear: His campaign efforts in New Hampshire will be more aggressive than the mild-mannered approach the Gingrich operation adopted in Iowa. He won't sling mud, he says, but he'll make an extra effort to ensure you know about his opponents' pasts. His supporters, many who have urged him to take off the gloves and rumble with Romney, ate it up.

"This is going to be a debate that begins tomorrow morning," he said.

With the New Hampshire primary race entering its final phase, negative ads from most GOP campaigns will start flooding the airwaves in the Granite State in the week ahead.

Gingrich wasn't at his own party for more than a few minutes before he darted off to be the first candidate to make the trip back east.

The campaign chartered a massive Boeing 737 with room for 162 passengers, but only 35 people, including about a dozen reporters, made the trip. It was wheels up--with plenty of legroom to spare--just before the clock struck midnight.

Before the plane took off, Gingrich paid a visit to the reporters back in coach. He appeared calm, even jovial, but determined to run full speed ahead over the next week.

The plane touched town in New Hampshire at around 3:30 a.m. eastern, giving him about three hours to sleep before his first media appearance Wednesday morning. To kick off the next round of the marathon campaign, Gingrich has seven media appearances and events planned on his first day here, where he will be fighting an uphill battle against Romney, who scored an exceedingly close win in the Iowa caucus vote, and who has long been the frontrunner in the New Hampshire polls.

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