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Newt Gingrich says he’ll keep it friendly at tonight’s debate

An unusually sunny Newt Gingrich pledged to be a happy warrior at tonight’s debate, contrasting Mitt Romney’s record with his own but not attacking him.

“I’m not going to go after Mitt Romney. I may define the reality of a Reagan conservative and a Massachusetts moderate,” Gingrich told reporters, saying he would talk about their track records on issues such as taxes and abortion. “I don’t get this ‘go after’ stuff. You don’t need to do that if your case is good.”

The former House speaker and candidate for much of the race declined opportunities to disparage his GOP rivals, saying that doing so only divided Republicans and helped President Obama. But after a barrage of attack ads sank Gingrich in the polls, he has gone on the offensive against Romney. He said he did not fear a voter backlash.

“I don’t think telling the truth in a happy, pleasant way comes across as negative,” he said. “It may come across as the truth.”

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He said he would follow his typical debate prep tonight – drink a Diet Coke and call his grandchildren, Maggie and Robert, to “get their sophisticated coaching advice.”

His mental to-do list for the contest at Saint Anselm College? “Slower. Smile. Shorter. Clearer,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich made the remarks after holding a veterans’ rally at a World War II museum. He spoke in front of a Pershing tank.

“From a political standpoint, I look at this tank lovingly because I remember Michael Dukakis,” Gingrich said, smiling. He was referring to a famous picture of the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee riding in a tank, wearing a large helmet and grinning broadly, that prompted widespread ridicule. “And it’s just a reminder that governors of Massachusetts don’t always make good presidential candidates.”


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