Gingrich fires at Romney for comments about the poor

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich shakes hands during a campaign stop at the Great Basin Brewing Co. Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, in Reno, Nev. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hit back against opponent Mitt Romney for making comments Wednesday morning about ignoring the poor, using the opportunity to frame his candidacy as one of unity.

Gingrich said Romney is "dividing Americans against each other."

Fresh off a decisive loss in Florida, Gingrich jumped on Romney's comments during an event at the Great Basin Brewery in Reno, Nevada, a state that holds its caucuses Saturday.

"I am fed up with politicians in either party dividing Americans against each other," Gingrich said. "I am running to be president of all of the American people, and I am concerned about all of the American people."

"I want to start with something the governor said today because I think it gives you a perfect distinction in our two approaches," Gingrich told the northern Nevada audience.

"My goal is to find steps for every American to have a job, every American to work, every American to be able to buy a house," the former speaker said. "I believe that America was founded on the dream that we are in fact created equal."

Romney said Wednesday morning, "I'm not concerned about the very poor." He told CNN host Soledad O'Brien that, "We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair , I'll fix it," he said. "I'm not concerned about the very rich.... I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 to 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."

Romney spent the day trying to clear up his comments. Andrea Saul, Romney's spokesperson, turned the focus on President Obama. "President Obama calls the plight of the unemployed 'interesting.' Mitt Romney calls it 'inexcusable.' We look forward debating President Obama on how his policies have failed the middle class," she wrote in a statement

Gingrich's response to Romney's gaffe plays directly into his latest campaign strategy.

At his Florida primary night rally on Tuesday night, Gingrich said his campaign is the "people's campaign."

Gingrich told the Florida crowd that he is "designing and putting together a people's campaign, not a Republican campaign, not an establishment campaign, not a Wall Street- funded campaign, a people's campaign, and saying to every American of every background and every ethnic group and every community: We have a better future for you and your family."

In Nevada, Gingrich continued to describe himself as the candidate of inclusion.

"Now let me shock the wall street groups, the founding fathers actually meant what they call the one percent, which I call Americans. Let me shock Governor Romney, the founding fathers meant the very poor, who they called Americans," Gingrich said in Nevada.

Gingrich has also come under attack for some of his comments about the poor. He said on the campaign trail in December that poor people don't work "unless it's illegal" and that children should be allowed to work as school janitors to teach them work ethic.

Before the South Carolina primary, Gingrich called President Obama the "best food stamp president in American history."

There are a growing number of people on food stamps, but the poverty rate has been on the rise during the latest economic downturn. According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans living in poverty has increased for four consecutive years. In 2010, 46 million Americans lived in poverty compared to 43.6 million in 2009.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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