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Gingrich goes negative against Romney, Bachmann

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

LONDONDERRY, N.H. -- Well that didn't take long. After promising as recently as Saturday to keep his message positive, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich went negative on Monday, attacking rival Mitt Romney for "bankrupting companies" in his earlier life as the head of a private equity firm.

At a press briefing during a campaign stop at Insight Technology, Gingrich responded to a comment from the former Massachusetts governor on Fox News on Monday morning suggesting that Gingrich give back the $1.6 million he earned as an adviser to the quasi-public mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

"If Governor Romney would like to give back all of the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, then I would be glad to listen to him. And I bet you $10 - not $10,000 - that he won't take the offer," Gingrich said, in a slap at both Romney's years running Bain Capital and his offer of a high-dollar bet to Texas Gov. Rick Perry during Saturday night's GOP candidate debate.

After Perry charged that Romney had removed mention of his support for an individual health insurance mandate from the second edition of his book, Romney denied it and challenged Perry to a bet of "10,000 bucks"that he was right. It was a reminder of Romney's multimillionaire status and his easy access to cash amid a punishing recession for most Americans.

Gingrich also took an indirect swipe at Romney for his wealth and the bet offer. "I was startled just because I know Rick Perry pretty well. I can't imagine he could cover that. I mean he's been a public servant all his career."

Romney's press staff was quick to respond with a prepared statement from Staples office supply founder Tom Stemberg, who wrote:

"Newt Gingrich comes from the world where politicians are paid millions after they retire to influence their friends in Washington. Mitt Romney comes from the private sector, where the economy is built by hard work and entrepreneurial drive. It's clear that after 30 years as a Washington insider, Newt Gingrich has no clue how the real world economy works."

During the press briefing, Gingrich demonstrated his famous temperamental side and fondness for the verbal stinger, when the former speaker of the House hit another rival, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, for mistakenly saying last summer that the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired in Concord, N.H., rather than in Concord, Mass.

Asked by reporters about Bachmann's charge during the debate that Gingrich supported the individual mandate, Gingrich replied, "Have you been in Concord? Go to Concord sometime and I'll talk to you later about Mrs. Bachmann."

The verbal jousting comes as the race is tightening in advance of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses and Romney battles against the recent surge by Gingrich to the top of most polls in Iowa and other key primary states.