HOLLIS, NH -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich fired back at Mitt Romney this morning after the former Massachusetts Governor criticized Gingrich for his earnings as a consultant for Freddie Mac.
"I would just say if Gov. Romney would like to give back all the money he has earned from bankrupting and laying off employees over his years at Bain (Capital) then I would be glad to then listen to him, and I bet you $10 -- not $10,000 -- that he wouldn’t take the offer," Gingrich, who vowed to stay "positive" during his campaign, told reporters following a town hall in Londondarry.
This idea of "bets" being placed between the candidates began at Saturday night’s debate when Romney attempted to bet Texas Gov. Rick Perry $10,000 that he was wrong that Romney had said in the first edition of his book that he wanted to impose a federal health insurance mandate.
"He must have been really sure of himself," Gingrich said about Romney’s attempted wager with Perry. "I wouldn't bet that amount of money."
The former speaker's mock bet takes aim at a central component of Romney's pitch to primary voters: that he's a seasoned figure in the business community with requisite experience to turn the economy around. Romney had co-founded Bain Capital, a private equity firm that helped catapult and resuscitate a variety of businesses -- sometimes through painful cuts. Democrats, and now Gingrich, have honed in on that element of Romney's business.
It's part of an emerging war of words between Romney and Gingrich, fueled by Saturday night's debate, that's seeped into the final weeks of the primary campaign before voting begins. On Fox News this morning, Romney challenged Gingrich to return the money he'd received for his consulting work on behalf of Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant now under government conservatorship in part for backing subprime mortgages.
One attendee at Gingrich’s meet and greet at a small pharmacy here had a wager of her own:
“How much do you want to bet you can win N.H.,” the lady asked the Speaker inside the small pharmacy. “Not more than $10 dollars,” Gingrich responded with a smile.
Gingrich, who referred to himself as the “front-runner,” was peppered with questions from people within the Granite State at both events.
“I wasn't willing to stay and be a normal politician,” Gingrich admitted to a man at the Hollis Pharmacy who questioned his reasoning for stepping down as Speaker of the House. “I'd run out of the ability to convince my members to be reformers. They were burned out, they were exhausted, four straight years of doing everything and they were just too tired.”
“I would probably be a little bit more paced in how many things we did” if I was president, Gingrich admitted.
As both Gingrich and Romney continue to campaign in New Hampshire today, the back and forth between the two top GOP presidential may continue as both men will allow for another round of press briefings.