The Old Newt is always just below the surface of the New Newt. And because he remains one of the most thin-skinned American politicians, the Old Newt comes out with only the slightest provocation.

As I noted earlier, he’s getting pummeled by his opponents today for his lobbying career and his denial that he’s a lobbyist. So when asked on the stump if he’d give back the money from Freddie Mac, Gingrich hissed: “I love the way he and his consultants do these things. I would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain that I would be glad to then listen to him. I’ll bet you $10, not $10,000.”

Umm, but Mitt Romney, you know, earned the money from the private sector. Gingrich, his opponents point out, profited from the taxpayers’ calamity. (And for the record, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), who is leveling the same attack, earned his money as a congressman and doctor and shouldn’t give that back either.)

This was a big, fat hanging curveball over the plate. The Romney camp smashed it over the fence, working in a dig about Gingrich’s anonymous source shenanigans with his pals at the Union Leader. (By the way, if there were ever an example of Gingrich throwing his allies under the bus this is it; the Union Leader played along with Gingrich’s “senior aide” cover story as he replied to criticism leveled against him, but then he outs them, showing them to be partisans, not independent journalists. You never go wrong betting Gingrich will turn on his “friends.”) The Romney camp sent out this e-mail to the press:


For those covering Speaker Gingrich’s (or, as he refers to himself, “Gingrich Senior Aide”) revealing comments about how the private sector works (“bankrupting companies and laying off employees”), please see the below response from STAPLES founder Tom Stemberg:

“Newt Gingrich comes from the world where politicians are paid millions after they retire to influence their friends in Washington. Mitt Romney comes from the private sector, where the economy is built by hard work and entrepreneurial drive. It’s clear that after 30 years as a Washington insider, Newt Gingrich has no clue how the real world economy works. After 25 years in business, Mitt Romney understands how jobs come and go, and what we need to do to get our economy back on track. If Newt Gingrich is our party’s nominee, the choice in next year’s election will be between two professional politicians, two Washington insiders, two people with no experience in the real world of job creation.” – Tom Stemberg, STAPLES Founder

That is a reference to this story, first reported in Fortune magazine.

This is one round in which the counterpunch is infinitely more effective than the initial swat. In starkest terms, Gingrich’s snippy response reveals that he really isn’t a free market capitalist (his crack sounds like something on an OWS sign) and that he really is same nasty character whom his party threw overboard as speaker. And for Romney, he gets to make the case once again that of the remaining candidates he actually created jobs (as opposed to presiding over others’ job-creation efforts).

One thing is certain. Gingrich is still his own worst enemy and the best witness to debunk the canard that he’s a Tea Party, pro-free market guy.