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Romney and Gingrich Trade Barbs on Who ‘Can Take the Heat’

ABC News(MANCHESTER, N.H.) -- Following his endorsement from New Hampshire Speaker Bill O’Brien, Newt Gingrich took questions from the press in Manchester. The focus was on the negative ads a Romney super PAC has been running on Gingrich in Iowa, where Gingrich is polling neck-in-neck with the former Massachusetts governor.

Earlier Wednesday, Romney told NBC’s Chuck Todd, “If you can’t handle the heat in this little kitchen, the heat that’s going to come from Obama’s hell’s kitchen is going to be a heck of a lot hotter. We have to show that we, as a Republican Party, and as a candidate that we can stand up to the barrage that’s going to come from the Obama world.”

Asked to respond, Gingrich looked visibly annoyed by Romney’s statement. After some deliberation, Gingrich said, “He’s kidding, of course!”

“Look, I’ll tell you what. If he wants to test the heat, I’ll meet him anywhere in Iowa next week, one on one, 90 minutes, no moderator, just a timekeeper. He wants to tie out the kitchen. I’ll be glad to debate him anywhere.”

Gingrich asserts that ads that a pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, has been running in Iowa are “shamefully dishonest," even citing The Wall Street Journal, which he claimed had given the ad “four Pinocchios!” Gingrich acknowledged that the ads have taken a toll on his campaign in Iowa and that there was a definite fight ahead of him in the state but pointed to a very successful week in Iowa with great turnout at his events.

“We’ll bring his ads and he can defend them. And we’ll bring the Washington Post as an indication that his ad is filled with lies and he can defend them. So let’s test this kitchen. I’m happy. I’ll go in the kitchen,” said Gingrich.

Gingrich said, “Go back and ask Governor Romney, would he like to come and play in the kitchen? I don’t think so. I don’t think he wants to do anything except hide over here and pretend it’s not his fault that he is flooding people of Iowa with falsehoods. That’s his money and his staff. And it’s his responsibility.” Despite Gingrich’s claim, the Romney campaign is legally prohibited from coordinating with the super PAC.

Gingrich asserted that Romney’s super PAC had $1,400,000 waiting in the wings to run negative ads on him next week. And for his part, he was committed to remaining positive. Asked about the negative ads earlier in the press conference, Gingrich said, “How do you go to Washington and say, I’ll lead America if you can’t be candid with the American people?” He went on to say that the only person the ads were helping was Barack Obama.

As for the heat in Romney’s proverbial kitchen? Gingrich boasted, “I can take the heat pretty well. There were 121,000 ads run against me in 1995, ’96. I went through two government checkups, I actually stuck to my word. I opposed Republican tax increases in 1982 and 1990.”

“I think I’ll do just fine with the heat from Barack Obama because frankly, it will be a fair exchange. He’ll get a fair amount of heat in the process.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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