Newt Gingrich, clamoring to remain in contention for the GOP nomination, slapped at Mitt Romney or Donald Trump on Thursday as he visited a manufacturing plant here hours before the real estate magnate was supposed to endorse the former Massachusetts governor.
"I like hiring people," he said to laughs, a remark that could be construed as a jab against either man. Romney had to backtrack for remarks earlier this year that he liked firing people, and Trump's trademark line in his reality show competition "The Apprentice" is "You're fired!"
Less than 24 hours ago, after Trump announced he would be holding an event in Las Vegas on Thursday, rumors swirled that he would be endorsing Gingrich. But the rumors proved untrue, and he is to endorse Romney shortly after noon Thursday.
Earlier Thursday, as he toured Xtreme Manufacturing, the former House speaker was unusually clipped.
Asked if he is expecting an endorsement from Trump, Gingrich said "No."
Asked whether he expected Trump to back Romney, he said "Who knows?" before saying he was amazed that Trump could get so much attention.
Gingrich went on to deliver his standard stump speech in front of about 150 people in the manufacturing plant, arguing that his experience working with President Reagan and as House speaker, overseeing the creation of 27 million jobs, make him the best qualified to turn the economy around and to take on President Obama.
He pointed to comments that Romney made yesterday that the wasn't concerned about the "very poor" because they had a safety net and said his rival was akin to President Obama in believing that a government safety net was the answer to poverty.
"I'm for replacing the safety net with a trampoline," he said. "Nothing is better for someone who's poor than getting a job and getting a paycheck … and having their children see that it's OK to go to work."
He said that he would contrast his job creation record with President Obama's in the general election.
"One of the major themes in this fall's campaign will be between a paycheck and job candidate Newt Gingrich and a food stamp and unemployment President Barack Obama," he said. "We're going to reach out to every American of every background who wants their children to have a paycheck and a job."