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Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney Spar Over Super PAC Attack Ads During 2012 GOP Debate In New Hampshire

First Posted: 01/08/2012 9:59 am Updated: 01/08/2012 8:31 pm

During Sunday's GOP debate in New Hampshire, host David Gregory discussed the campaign's increasingly negative tone, noting Newt Gingrich had complained bitterly about a super PAC that had launched numerous attack ads against him in Iowa. The ads, issued by Restore Our Future, dug up material from the former House Speaker's past, hitting him for supporting a national health insurance mandate as well as "amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants."

The super PAC also hit Gingrich for appearing in an ad alongside then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2008 urging the country to address climate change. Since announcing his presidential candidacy, Gingrich has walked back those views, calling appearing in that ad one of the stupidest things he's ever done. His critics are calling it a flip-flop.

"Sure, I'm consistent, because I think you have to have a fact-based campaign to talk about [your opponents'] records," Gingrich told Gregory in defense of his record.

Gingrich said that referring to Romney as a "predator" for his involvement at the investment company Bain Capital was above board, given a New York Times article, a Washington Post fact check on his tenure there and a film about the same. He asked Romney to calmly state that former staff and friends were running his super PAC.

Romney said, "Of course they are." He went on to insist that everything that his super PAC's ads had to say about Gingrich was true, listing many of the charges in the ad. MSNBC debate analyst Chris Matthews later found the exhaustive list curious, given that Romney had said he'd never seen the ad. But former Gov. John Sununu, a Romney backer, fought back against the accusation of a contradiction.

"Look, you guys are reveling and wallowing in a ridiculous perception of what's going on. There's a law out there that defines what can and can't be done by those PACs, and all the candidates are following the law. And to suggest that Gov. Romney shouldn't know what's in that ad with all the clippings that have been out describing it? Come on. Stop being ridiculous and get to the point. You guys don't even understand New Hampshire politics."

But earlier in the debate, Romney had directly contradicted himself. After saying he hadn't seen the ad, he said: "The ad I saw said you were forced out of the speakership." The bizarre fib was the talk of the spin room after the debate.

Romney said that Gingrich's rhetoric -- he had called Romney a "liar" earlier -- was "over the top."

"You think my rhetoric is over the top?" asked Gingrich, who went on to essentially assert that he was going to use the same tactics against Romney.

Of the forthcoming movie describing Romney's term at Bain Capital, Gingrich said, "I hope it is totally accurate and that people can watch the 27 and a half minutes of his career at Bain." A Super PAC supportive of Gingrich has purchased rights to the film and will be playing clips of it on television.

Watch a trailer for the upcoming film "When Mitt Romney Came To Town"

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