Posted at 12:49 PM ET, 12/08/2011

Gingrich laughs off Romney criticism in South Carolina, says ‘we’re gonna stay positive’

Greenville, S.C.--Newt Gingrich is keeping his word to stay positive.

At least so far.
GREENVILLE, SC - Newt Gingrich leads a forum with South Carolina business leaders at The Global Trading Consortium on December 8, 2011 in Greenville, South Carolina. Gingrich has recently made a sudden surge in the polls. (John W. Adkisson - GETTY IMAGES)

On a day when the Mitt Romney’s campaign unleashed a torrent of criticism, calling the former speaker a self-absorbed, unreliable conservative who can’t be trusted to be commander-in-chief, Gingrich simply laughed off the criticism.

“We’re gonna stay positive, we’re gonna stay solution oriented and talk about what America needs to do,” he said . “The only opponent I have is Barack Obama.”

Asked by reporters what he thought of the Romney camp’s claims that he is too “irrational” and “self-aggrandizing” and that he is “not a conservative,” Gingrich let out a belly laugh and said:

“I’ll let you guys solve that,” he said, as he walked to his car. “Bye, bye guys.”

A little ironically given Romney backers’ criticism that he tends to sell himself as larger than life, Gingrich’s speech here before about 300 businessman was long on ideas and historical references. The former House speaker stroked the egos of the audience members, saying they would likely decide the the Republican nominee.

Gingrich also pitched himself as a transformative leader who would shrink the government and restore the economy.

About an hour before Gingrich’s speech, the Romney campaign rolled out the tough new lines of attack against Gingrich, who has surged to the top of polls.

Romney dispatched top surrogates Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who served in the House under Gingrich and held a conference call Thursday morning, to rip into the Republican frontrunner.

“Speaker Gingrich says interesting and insightful things,” Talent said. “He can explain them well on many occasions. He also says outrageous things that come from nowhere and he has a tendency to say them at the exact time when they most undermine the conservative agenda.”

In his remarks, which ran about 30 minutes, Gingrich seemed to give a slight nod to the notion that he is a man full of ideas, some of them not so great.

“I am capable of saying things that are indefensible,” he said, noting that he was a college professor.

Gingrich has pledged to run a clean campaign against his Republican opponents and in his remarks, focused mostly on President Obama, saying he could learn something about creating jobs by spending time in the Palmetto State.

“This the most effective food stamp president in American history. I would like to be the most effective paycheck president,” Gingrich said, speaking at Pacific Gateway Capital Group. “This is going to be an American campaign, I’m not just going to try to get Republican votes....a much broader coalition than you’ve ever seen.”

Gingrich, who has drawn some fire for suggesting that poor children could learn the habits of work by becoming janitorial assistants, did not back down from the idea, and said that he wanted to make bold steps to help the poor find ways out of poverty.

Sounding a note of compassionate conservatism, Gingrich said that the government does have some responsibility to people in the poorest neighborhoods.

“We owe it to them to find ways to help them migrate into jobs, to have jobs that allow them to save and to give them a chance to pursue happiness fully as much as anyone in America,” he said.

Gingrich called for a “citizens’” movement and shrinking the Washington bureaucracy.

“I am convinced that if we unleash the American people we will go back to a generation of progress,” Gingrich said.

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By  |  12:49 PM ET, 12/08/2011

 
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