FORT DODGE, Iowa -- Newt Gingrich is trying to turn Mitt Romney's attacks back on him by labeling the former Massachusetts governor a negative campaigner.
Gingrich, foreshadowing a line of attack against Romney in Thursday night's debate, told a packed ballroom at an Iowa country club Wednesday that he would not respond to the barrage of criticism and negative TV ads coming at him from Romney and other candidates in the GOP primary.
Instead, he said, he would "talk about positive solutions in a positive way."
But subtly, Gingrich -- who has promised not to attack his primary opponents -- sought to paint Romney as cynical and even desperate, labeling him an attack dog and implying that he represents all that is wrong with American politics.
"I know there are a ton of negative ads," Gingrich said, but he directed people to his website rather than spend time responding to each criticism being directed at him.
"I believe the people of Iowa are smart and they can tell the difference between someone who is trying to help the country and someone who is just running a negative campaign," Gingrich said.
In addition to the $3.1 million spent in attack ads airing in Iowa by a super PAC supporting Romney, Romney has also criticized Gingrich personally in a series of media interviews this week.
Gingrich said he thinks if he runs a positive campaign that will be enough to get voters to support him.
A negative campaign, Gingrich said, "will just get people disgusted."
Gingrich said he learned an important lesson from the 1994 Contract with America, which he spearheaded as House Speaker (R-Ga.): "If you run a positive campaign with positive solutions, [voters will] turn out."
"I think a lot of the modern political system is frankly so negative and so destructive that it's no wonder that people get disgusted with the process," he said.
Yet as he left the Fort Dodge, Iowa, country club Thursday, Gingrich could see yellow fliers on the few hundred cars in the parking lot. They were each headlined, "Newt Gingrich: 'I Think This is a Pro-Choice Country,'" and attacked him for being insufficiently anti-abortion.
Tim Albrecht, communications director for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R), tweeted in response to the posters: "Still fighting the campaign and issues of 4 years ago. Different time now. Jobs and debt are it this year."
Gingrich is facing questions about whether he can sustain his current momentum in the face of mounting criticism and attacks in TV ads coming from all sides. His campaign schedule, in Iowa and elsewhere, has also been less than impressive.
Gingrich is set to campaign in Iowa all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. But he also lags far behind Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) in terms of money and organization, and second-tier candidates like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) are out-campaigning him.