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Gingrich starts out mellow, then attacks Romney in N.H. appearance

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Associated Press GOP presidential candidate and former House speaker Newt Gingrich addresses his supporters after early tallies in the Iowa caucuses. CONCORD, N.H. — There has rarely been a major candidate for president of the United States as visibly seething as Newt Gingrich was Tuesday night after his fourth-place finish in Iowa, a trouncing that came just weeks after he had been leading in the polls.

So furious was Gingrich that, in addressing supporters, he refused to mention Mitt Romney by name — he referred to him merely as “a Massachusetts moderate” — and strongly hinted that he would arrive in New Hampshire with fangs bared and claws slashing.

“We’re not going to go out and run nasty ads,” Gingrich said. “But I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative, that may be more a comment on his record.”

But this morning a mellow, uncaffeinated Gingrich showed up in an overcrowded meeting room at the Holiday Inn here, and at first he seemed uninterested in doing anything other than be professorial. After some perfunctory taped music and an odd introduction by a supporter who said “fifth place is okay,” Gingrich meandered through a primer on the origins of our political system and the rights of Americans.

This was, it turns out, a discussion about education, and the former House speaker had decided that for this audience he would be a historian more than a political combatant. There were many students in the back of the room, missing school — and maybe wondering if there would be a test at the end of Gingrich’s talk.

Gingrich spoke about the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. He talked of Lexington and “the other” Concord. He annotated the back-story of the Declaration of Independence, with a reference to the Scottish Enlightenment. He said he was wearing a pin of the same type worn by George Washington at Valley Forge.

Just as the assembled corps of national news media expected him to pivot to an attack on Romney — or something to justify a “Wounded Newt On Loose” in a New Hampshire headline — Gingrich began discussing Capt. John Smith’s activities at Jamestown.

He reserved his political attacks for President Obama, and what Gingrich believes is a philosophy that will drive America into the ground.

“We currently have a president who believes in the radicalism of Saul Alinksy, who believes that the United Nations matters more than the U.S. Congress, who believes that redistribution is better than creating wealth,” Gingrich said. “There is a clear Barack Obama vision of the future. It is a Washington-centered, government-centered, very very authoritarian vision in which you and I area subjects and government is in charge.”

If Gingrich spared Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, when meeting with voters, he changed tactics abruptly less than an hour later when holding a news conference in an adjoining room. Here came Gingrich loaded for bear.

“Governor Romney was first an independent, then repudiated Reagan-Bush, then voted for Paul Tsongas, the most liberal candidate in the ‘92 campaign, then ran to the left of Teddy Kennedy in 1994,” Gingrich said. He continued on in this vein, saying that Romney’s health care plan as governor of Massachusetts used state money to pay for abortions. He said Romney “appointed liberal judges in order to placate Democrats.”

And although he didn’t acknowledge being mad about the battering by negative ads in Iowa, he did question his rival’s tactics and honesty: “Governor Romney ran a relentlessly negative campaign of falsehoods…The fact is, three out of four Republicans rejected him.”

So, not exactly “Congratulations Gov. Romney.”

Gingrich said a supporter had e-mailed him this morning with the observation that Romney had gotten 66 votes more than Romney did four years ago in Iowa, and each vote had cost Romney about $100,000.

Gingrich’s attacks on Romney were delivered in a cool, almost icy tone. He made a forecast about the days to come: “I suspect it’s going to be a very lively campaign.”

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