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In New Hampshire, Newt Gingrich takes aim at Mitt Romney

Arriving in New Hampshire after his fourth-place finish in the Iowa Caucuses, Newt Gingrich came out swinging against Mitt Romney and the No. 1 finisher’s allies, promising a tough campaign against “a Massachusetts moderate” whom he accused of carrying out a “relentlessly negative campaign of falsehoods.”

Mocking Tuesday night’s results in Iowa – where Mitt Romney defeated Rick Santorum by eight votes and Ron Paul finished third with 21.4% -- Gingrich said it was evident that Romney was only capable of winning over roughly a quarter of his own party.

Gingrich noted that Romney, “supposedly the front runner,” has run for president twice and spent millions of dollars yet only was able to add a small portion of votes to his tally in Iowa in 2008. “The fact is three out of four republicans rejected” his campaign, Gingrich said. “Governor Romney is a moderate Massachusetts Republican to the left of the vast majority of Republicans.”

“I find it amazing the news media continues to say he’s the most electable Republican when he can’t even break out in his own party.”

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Gingrich said he would endeavor in the next phase of the campaign to clarify the distinctions between himself, “a consistent conservative all the way back” to the 1960s, and Romney. The former House speaker then went through an exhaustive list of attacks on Romney’s record in Massachusetts, where he ran for Senate in 1994 and then served as governor for one term beginning in 2002.

“Part of the distinction will be what I’ve actually done as a conservative leader for the last generation,” Gingrich said, “and the degree to which in that same time frame Governor Romney was first a independent; then repudiated Reagan-Bush; then voted for Paul Tsongas, the most liberal candidate in the 1992 campaign; then ran to the left of Teddy Kennedy in 1994 [in Massachusetts]; then became a moderate to run for governor in 2002; and then with ‘Romneycare,’ for example, included state-funded abortions and specifically designated Planned Parenthood as a Romneycare; appointed liberal judges in order to placate Democrats and raised taxes on business, which I think will be a job killing approach. So the contrast will be very wide and that will be a key part of what we describe going forward.”

“I expect it will be a very lively campaign,” Gingrich told reporters.

Gingrich also did not mince words when contrasting his candidacy to that of Ron Paul, who ran a slew of negative ads against him in Iowa. He accused the Texas congressman of saying “wild and outrageous things with no facts” behind them.

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And at one point congratulating Michele Bachmann – who had just dropped out of the Republican race for president – Gingrich complimented her for challenging Paul’s “dangerous” approach to foreign policy.

Gingrich predicted that ultimately Bachmann’s supporters would split between himself and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, of whom he spoke warmly, because Romney “doesn’t fit culturally, he doesn’t fit ideologically.” 

Earlier before a subdued crowd crammed into a meeting room at Concord’s Holiday Inn, Gingrich scarcely mentioned his rivals or the results of the Iowa caucuses. But a supporter who introduced him said he was “very disheartened” by the horse race environment of the presidential race.

Gingrich echoed those remarks when he took the microphone for what was billed as a town hall on education, arguing in a far milder tone than in his press conference that the press was not taking the presidential race seriously enough.

“The most important thing that we need to communicate is this is not a campaign for sort of the senior class president, where it’s all a game and it’s all politics,” Gingrich told the audience, which included many out-of-town students who were in Concord for a college convention. “Because I think there’s a tendency in the current 24-hour media to trivialize the whole thing.

“We’re trying to decide as a nation who we are and where we’re going,” he continued. “We currently have a president who believes in the radicalism of Saul Alinsky, who believes that the United Nations matters more than the U.S. Congress, who believes that redistribution is better than creating wealth, who believes that class warfare is better than creating jobs and who believes that the teachers union is more important than students learning.”

The former House speaker urged voters to help him over the next week to create a citizens’ movement that would be able to achieve a “golden era” of American prosperity and productivity.

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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