Newt Gingrich: I care about poor people

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at Xtreme Manufacturing, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich wants you to know he cares about poor people.

A day after his chief rival Mitt Romney stumbled rhetorically by suggesting poor people don't concern him, Gingrich said at his first campaign event on Thursday, "I really believe that we should care about the very poor, unlike Governor Romney. But I believe we should care differently than Barack Obama."

Both Romney and Mr. Obama think a "safety net" of government programs is all that's needed, Gingrich said, but he believes, "What the poor need is a trampoline, so that they can spring up ... So I'm for replacing the safety net with a trampoline."

His "trampoline," he said, would consist of unemployment compensation and job training programs. Both are existing programs already part of the social safety net in this country. Gingrich did not say whether he would advocate more spending for those programs, which is traditionally a Democratic position.

Gingrich spoke to a crowd of about 150 people at the Xtreme Manufacturing facility as he stumped for votes in advance of Saturday's Nevada caucus.

Romney kicked off the exchange about the poor during a CNN interview on Wednesday. In an answer to a question about how he would fix a problem that shows up repeatedly in polling data -- that many potential voters doubt he can relate to the needs or problems - Romney said, "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it."

Gingrich said at the factory, "Nothing is better for somebody who is poor than getting a job and getting a paycheck and having a chance to rise and having their children see that it is OK to go to work and that it is a part of being an American."

He continued: "So, unlike Governor Romney, I really care about making sure that, in fact, every person has the right to pursue happiness. They don't have the right to be given happiness by the government...You know Obama believes he is so smart that he can come here and take from the overly happy to redistribute to the underly happy. That is nonsense."

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