Gingrich shrugs off "desperate" Romney attacks

Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a South Carolina Republican presidential primary night rally, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, in Columbia, S.C. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Is GOP nervous about Gingrich?
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

TAMPA, Fla. - Newt Gingrich on Monday shrugged off Mitt Romney's attacks on his work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac and other controversies, telling an audience here: "If you've been campaigning for six years and you begin to see it slip away, you get desperate."

"It used to be pious baloney, but now it's just desperate baloney," Gingrich added, joking that soon he would be able to open a delicatessen.

The former House speaker also predicted that his rival would make such attacks a central feature of Monday night's NBC/National Journal debate and would "probably stretch the barrier" at some point. "I've been memorizing phrases like 'There you go again,'" Gingrich said, invoking President Reagan's famous debate riposte.

During his speech here, Gingrich was briefly heckled by a woman who shouted at him, "You're not a Reagan conservative!" The audience booed the woman but Gingrich joked that it was fine for Romney to have a few supporters in a crowd of more than 150.

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    Sarah Huisenga is covering the Mitt Romney campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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