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In a fantastic moment on MSNBC’s set at Tampa’s Republican National Convention, Chris Matthews and Newt Gingrich went at it over the salience of Mitt Romney’s quip from last week:

I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born . . . . No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate; they know that this is the place where we were born and raised.

Responding to attacks from Matthews that this talk is racially motivated, Gingrich responds:

What Mitt romney did the other day — people say you ought to relax, you ought to be a little bit lighter. So he tells a joke. Now it happens to be a joke which serves him in a totally different way than you’re calculating. It reminds everybody in Michigan that he was born in Michigan, he’s a Michigander and in the poll that came out this morning he closed a five-point gap in Michigan.

Moments later, Gingrich called it a “throwaway line.”

Matthews could well have asked: How does a throwaway line move the polling needle like that?

Gingrich certainly would have found a way out of that one. He was churning out high-octane cable pugilism, pushing Matthews on his every assumption, his every fact. Booze, food stamps, welfare queens, liberal sensibilities, race — it all got wrapped up in a fury of crosstalk that’s worth watching a couple of times. On the debate over welfare work requirements:

Gingrich: I think liberals loved it, liberals saw it, ‘That’s right, let’s go back to dependency. Why are we requiring people to work when we could give them money?’

Matthews: Why would anybody like dependency?

Gingrich: You tell me.

Matthews: Well, you tell me! You just said they liked dependency.

It kept getting better, a mix of nastiness and playfulness that bespeaks the mixture of disdain, contempt and smiling regard that these two appear to hold for each other. Back in the heat of the primary, Matthews said Gingrich is a guy from whom “dogs walk away when they see him.”

After Gingrich bagged his presidential bid, there was talk of whether he might land as a contributor at Fox News (again) or perhaps at CNN, which he praised for being less biased against him than Fox. Why not MSNBC, where he could have more regular sessions with Matthews? Could such glory be in the cards, MSNBC?

“No,” responds a spokesperson.