Eric Gay, Associated Press
MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Newt Gingrich said Sunday he'd been "Romney-boated" in Iowa and suggested his GOP rival would buy the presidency if he could.
The sharp words came with just two days left before voters in Iowa weigh in on the Republican field. Once a frontrunner, Gingrich has plummeted in Iowa polls since a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney ran a barrage of ads attacking the former House speaker.
Gingrich said Sunday he would adopt a more aggressive strategy in contrasting his record with Romney's when the race moves to New Hampshire, the former Massachusetts governor's backyard.
"I think New Hampshire is the perfect state to have a debate over Romneycare and to have a debate about tax-paid abortions, which he signed, and to have a debate about putting Planned Parenthood on a government board, which he signed. And to have a debate about appointing liberal judges, which he did," Gingrich told reporters at a stop in Marshalltown.
"And so I think I New Hampshire is a good place to start the debate for South Carolina."
"Romneycare" is a reference to Massachusetts' 2006 health care overhaul, which Romney signed into law.
Romney needs to do well in New Hampshire. The next primary, in South Carolina, is expected to provide a test for social conservatives.
Unlike some Republicans who are making a beeline for South Carolina, Gingrich said he would campaign in New Hampshire.
Gingrich said Sunday he would not go negative — which he defined as distortions and lies — but would work to correct misleading charges against himself and draw a clearer contrast with Romney. He said a counter-offensive would probably include television ads.
Gingrich was asked Sunday whether he felt that he had been "swiftboated," a reference to a 2004 ad campaign attacking Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
"I feel Romney-boated," he replied.
It was his second swipe of the day at the Republican frontrunner.
Speaking to reporters after attending morning Mass at the St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines, Gingrich said the amount that the former Massachusetts governor will eventually spend on his various campaigns will rival the spending of billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"Romney would buy the election if he could," Gingrich said.
A new Des Moines Register poll put Gingrich in fourth place, after leading the field a few weeks ago.
Gingrich said Sunday that the most accurate part of the survey was that 41 percent said they could still change their opinion.
"And I think that's an understatement," he said. "I think this is wide open and that the next 2½ days are going to be fascinating."
Follow Shannon McCaffrey at www.twitter.com/smccaffrey13
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