MERRIMACK, N.H. — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he anticipated finishing in the "top three or four" in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary and confronting front-runner Mitt Romney head-on in South Carolina.
"The ideal South Carolina fight would be a Georgia conservative vs. a Massachussetts moderate," Gingrich told reporters aboard a press bus after a visit to a polling place in Merrimack, N.H.
Gingrich said people expected New Hampshire to be Romney's for the asking but that "I don't think it's going to be much of a fortress."
"This is a guy who has been governor next door. Ran for the U.S. Senate next door. Has bought a house in the state. Has spent five years here. And somewhere around two out of every three Republicans are going to vote no," Gingrich said.
"I thought when we came in a week ago he had a very good shot at breaking 50 and I think that's now very, very unlikely."
A smiling Gingrich hit three polling places on Tuesday to greet voters with his wife, Callista. In Manchester, a crush of reporters met the couple and he compared the crowd to Mardi Gras except "not nearly as much fun."
Previewing a slugfest as the presidential race moves to South Carolina, Gingrich said that Romney's leadership at Bain Capital is fair game because Romney has made his business expertise central to his campaign. Gingrich said he has no problem with Bain and Romney making a healthy profit.
"But I do have some real questions if the investor took all the money and the employees took all the losses," he said.
Gingrich has charged that the venture capital firm went into some troubled companies, took money out and left people without jobs.
"If you get back $180 million and workers get an unemployment check. I think there are very sever questions be asked," he said.
In an appearance on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," Gingrich said he wouldn't press Romney on the former governor's comment about instances in which he enjoys firing people.
Gingrich said he thought Romney's remark had been taken "out of context" by critics and that it wasn't "well-worded." The former congressman acknowledged that Romney actually was talking about people having the right to ditch a health insurer if they didn't like the service they were getting. At the same time, he called Romney's remark "clumsy" and said it illustrated that he himself would be superior in a debate with President Barack Obama.
Gingrich said his own words on race and food stamps had been taken out of context and distorted by the media last week.
In a rare light moment on the trail, Gingrich — sitting beside his wife — was asked who was the "adult" in their marriage, where there is a 23-year age difference.
"She is," said Gingrich, who has been married three times. "I think the woman is always the grown-up. I think there are very few relationships where the male is the grown-up."
Asked if she agreed with her husband's assessment, Callista Gingrich replied, "Most days," which drew laughter from the press corps.
Follow Shannon McCaffrey on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/smccaffrey13
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