Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) says he’ll draw a “direct and sharp contrast” with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) in New Hampshire — but it will be focused on the issues, not on character attacks.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

“But I’m not going to go into attack commercials and the kind of negative baloney that some of these guys do,” Gingrich added. “I think we ought to talk about issues, about policy and make clear how big the choice is between a Reagan conservative who’s actually achieved things in Washington and a Massachusetts moderate.”

Gingrich sought to find a silver lining in his fourth-place Iowa finish behind Romney, former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), arguing that it was “a remarkable achievement” considering the onslaught of negative ads that he had to contend with aired by a pro-Romney super PAC and others.

“I think considering the weight of ads — 45 percent of all the ads in Iowa were aimed at me, were negative ads about me,” he said. “So I think in some ways, it was a remarkable achievement. And the people of Iowa deserve to be commended for looking beyond it.”

He also defended his pledge not to go negative in Iowa.

“I said at the time it was an experiment,” Gingrich said. “It did well enough that I came in above both Congresswoman Bachmann and Governor Perry.”

Looking ahead to the nominating contests in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, Romney said he will focus on Romney’s record on taxes, on appointing “liberal judges” and on Romney’s Massachusetts health-care overhaul, which Gingrich argued Wednesday includes “tax-paid abortions” and funding for Planned Parenthood.

The former House speaker also cast Romney as the establishment candidate.

“I think almost the entire establishment is rallying around Governor Romney to try to stop somebody who would genuinely change Washington,” he said. “And I think you got a whole range of people who are all in favor of a sort of ‘manage the decay,’ relatively timid, cautious approach that doesn’t shake things up. ... I represent a genuine insurgency.”