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Newt Gingrich punches back, calling Romney charges ‘stupid’

As Mitt Romney stepped up his attacks on Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker slapped back on Wednesday, calling Romney Web ads that accuse him of being a chaotic leader and helping to reelect President Clinton “stupid.”

“Where do they get the gall to run this kind of ad?” Gingrich asked reporters after holding a town hall here.

He listed his electoral accomplishments, notably engineering the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994, the first Republican majority in the House in four decades.

“My only question is so what did Mitt Romney do? Who did he help elect? What was he doing during those years?” Gingrich said. “Show us how many Republicans you helped elect in the ‘80s when you weren’t for Reagan and Bush. Show us how many Republicans you helped elect in ’92 when you were voting as a Democrat for Paul Tsongas.”

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Romney has avoided discussing his rivals in recent weeks, focusing his attacks on President Obama. So his attacks on Gingrich, through two Web ads, through supporters on a conference call with reporters and on the stump on Wednesday, marked a sharp departure and were indicative of a tightening race in South Carolina, which on Saturday holds the first primary in the South.

Conservatives have been split between Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, but there are signs that there is some coalescing behind Gingrich in recent days after he delivered a strong debate performance earlier this week. The point was capped by Sarah Palin on Tuesday when she said that if she were a South Carolina resident, she would vote for the former House Speaker, a statement Gingrich called “very helpful.”

“We’re very close to getting enough conservatives to come together for a Gingrich candidacy to beat [Romney] here and that’s my goal,” Gingrich said.

He said that while it would be helpful if Santorum and Perry dropped out, he would not call on them to do so because his own candidacy was declared dead over the summer and people called on him to drop out.

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“So I’m not going to turn to someone else and say you have no future,” he said. “My pitch is if conservatives come together, we beat Romney decisively. If conservatives are split he might squeak through with a plurality. So I’m trying to get every conservative voter in the state to decide while they may like someone else, that historically we need to get the vote for Gingrich.”

Gingrich, who has been pressing Romney to release his tax returns, on Wednesday said he would release his 2010 return on Thursday and his 2011 documents once they are prepared. He said he did not know how much income he made, but that he paid 31% in taxes.


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