Gingrich is also under fire for saying several years ago that he liked Romney’s plan to reform health care in Massachusetts, though now, like most Republicans, he criticizes its provision for an individual insurance mandate. He is also facing revelations that his first wife did not want a divorce, contrary to his own account of the dissolution of the marriage.
On Tuesday, Gingrich defended his long history of supporting conservative candidates and causes in American politics, from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to Jack Kemp’s tax-cutting theory of supply-side economics. He also repeatedly criticized Romney.
“I don’t want to be invidious about Governor Romney, who I think is a very competent manager and a very smart man,” Gingrich said. “But to have someone who is a Massachusetts moderate, who said he did not want to go back to the Reagan-Bush years, who voted as a Democrat for Paul Tsongas in ’92, who campaigned to the left of Teddy Kennedy, who as recently as running for governor said, ‘I’m really sort of a moderate pragmatic’ — to have him run a commercial that questions my conservatism? I mean, I’ve been a conservative all my life.”
Gingrich acknowledged that his appearance in a video with former House speaker Nancy Pelosi about climate change was “the dumbest thing I’ve done in the last four years.” But he accused his critics of lying about his support for the cap-and-trade bill championed by Pelosi and Obama. He said he had testified against the bill and helped block it in the Senate after it passed the House.
“If somebody wants to run an ad and say, ‘There are moments when Newt Gingrich shows a total lack of judgment, and this was one of them,’ I’ll laugh with the rest of them,” he said. “And I don’t mind an opponent who takes a clean shot and says, ‘You know, I gotcha.’ But they then go from there, and frankly they plain lie. I don’t know any other word for it.”
Gingrich attacked Paul in even sharper terms. During an interview on CNN, he said the Texas congressman’s foreign policy positions as well as his recent claims that he knew nothing of the racially charged and anti-Semitic content of his newsletter disqualify him for the presidency. “The people of the United States are not going to accept somebody who thinks it’s irrelevant if Iran gets a nuclear weapon. I think that’s a national security threat of the first order.”
Responding to the controversy over writings in newsletters that Paul’s organization published in the 1990s, Gingrich said, “There will come a moment when people don’t take him seriously.” Gingrich said that if Paul were the nominee, he would not support him.
Criticism of Paul has begun to escalate as polls have shown him to be a threat to win the caucuses. Coming this close to the voting, the attacks could be a critical setback to his candidacy, but his supporters are believed to be among the most passionate and devoted of any of the candidates’.
Staff writer Sandhya Somashekhar in New Hampshire contributed to this report.