Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney escalated his attacks against rival Newt Gingrich on Wednesday, taking a shot at the former House Speaker's earlier debt to the jewelery store Tiffany & Co.
Romney has called for Gingrich to return the $1.6 million he made as a consultant for mortgage giant Freddie Mac over the past decade.
Gingrich challenged Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 to pressure then-senator Barack Obama to give back any money donated to his campaign by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae executives and to fire any advisers who worked for the federally backed institution.
When asked by reporters on the campaign trail if he'd give back the money from Freddie Mac, Gingrich replied, "I would just say that if Gov. 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, that I would be glad to listen to him. And I bet you $10 -- not $10,000 -- that he won't take the offer."
The $10,000 dig referred to a bet Romney attempted to make during a debate with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Saturday.
"Attacking the free enterprise system is simply not the right way to go," Romney said Wednesday on Sean Hannity's radio show. "And as for him, trying to reference a $10,000 rhetorical bet, the Speaker, as I recall, probably shouldn't be talking about that given the $500,000 bill at Tiffany's."
Romney made a similar hit on Gingrich speaking with CBS News, calling Gingrich a "wealthy man" and adding, "If you have a half a million dollar purchase from Tiffany's, you're not a middle class American."
Romney has spent much of the day fighting off criticism from Gingrich, who has recently risen above Romney in multiple polls.
"In my enterprise, we had the occasion to build tens of thousands of jobs, and he doesn't understand the economy if he doesn't understand that sometimes businesses succeed and sometimes fail," Romney said Wednesday on Fox News.
He argued it was Gingrich who originally said that anyone who profited from making money at Freddie Mac ought to return the money.
"Now he was the one who said that," Romney told Hannity. "I only said I agree with that principle. He ought to return the money. He definitely profited from Freddie Mac. So he was the one that said it, I just agreed with it."
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