Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested he might not vote for Ron Paul as the GOP presidential nominee versus President Obama in 2012.
Gingrich, in an interview Tuesday on CNN, assailed Paul as not serious and unelectable; Gingrich said the Texas congressman must answer for a series of newsletters published by his office that contained racist and anti-Semitic language.
"He's got to come up with some very straight answers to get somebody to take him seriously. Would I be willing to listen to him? Sure. I think the choice of Ron Paul or Barack Obama would be a very bad choice for America," Gingrich aid on CNN's "Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" when asked if he would vote for Obama or Paul.
When first asked the question, Gingrich flatly responded with a "no," and later called the prospect of a general election matchup between Obama and Paul as presenting a "very hard choice."
"There will come a morning people won’t take him as a serious person," Gingrich said of Paul.
Gingrich has re-emerged Tuesday after the holiday break to take on a more aggressive tone in response to attacks by his GOP rivals. The former speaker's staff maintains that Gingrich is simply responding to attacks, and not violating his pledge to run a positive, attack-free campaign.
But Gingrich accused Paul of "systemic avoidance of reality" in his advertisements, and said that Paul would never win the nomination.
Those tough words toward Paul, who's surged into a top contender spot in Iowa's caucuses, come after a day in which Gingrich and his campaign assailed Mitt Romney as a "Massachusetts moderate."
Gingrich challenged Romney in the interview over the negative tack taken by his campaign toward Gingrich. Romney should be "man enough to own" that style of campaigning, Gingrich said.
If you're going to run a negative campaign...be man enough to own it."