Gingrich blasts Romney for unfairness to poor

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 03: Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign rally at Stoney's Rockin' Country February 3, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Gingrich is campaigning ahead of Nevada's February 4 caucus.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS - Newt Gingrich on Friday hit Mitt Romney for being unfair to the poor while at the same time contending that a Romney administration would support food stamps as much as President Obama - calling the president "big food stamp" and Romney "little food stamp."

Calling Romney's comment that he didn't "really care about the poor" a "boo-boo," Gingrich told a crowd gathered at Smokey's Rockin' Country bar that the comments made by the former Massachusetts governor would come back to hurt him in a general election. Romney acknowledged that he misspoke when he said, "I'm not concerned about the very poor; we have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it."

"The elite media did exactly what Obama will do this fall," Gingrich said. "[Keep] replaying `I don't care about the poor,' which, by the way, is not a very clever thing for somebody who is very wealthy to say."

But only moments earlier, the former speaker was calling Romney "Obama lite," and comparing Romney's position on food stamps - a government safety net for the poor - to that of the president's.

"We now know from Governor Romney, he joins Obama, Obama is big food stamp, he's little food stamp," Gingrich said. "And they both think food stamps are okay. I don't think food stamps are a future for America, they're a necessary bridge, back to getting a job and back to being independent of the government."

Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams fired back in response that Gingrich's attacks "are the sign of a candidate trying to distract from his own record to save his sinking campaign. Newt Gingrich would rather make misleading statements about Mitt Romney's record than tell Nevada voters suffering from the housing crisis why he took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac or why he filmed a climate-change ad with Nancy Pelosi that was funded by George Soros."

In a subsequent appearance on CNN, Gingrich said it was "irrelevant" whether Obama deserved any credit for Friday's news that unemployment fell to 8.3 percent. "If it makes you happy, give him some credit," he told host Wolf Blitzer.

"The fact is," he added, "his policies in general have driven up the national debt massively, they have weakened the United States economically, they have increased the price of gas so that it's double what it was when he came in, even at 8.3 percent, the economy is dramatically weaker than under Ronald Reagan at this exact same point. And he won't be able to go to the public and say, 'Look how successful I've been.' The most he'll be able to say is, `I'm less destructive than I was a year ago."

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