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Romney, Gingrich exchange attacks in N.H.

LONDONDERRY, N.H. - The two frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination are going at it.

This morning, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney sent an email to supporters calling former House Speaker Newt Gingrich an “unreliable leader” and criticizing his former support for action on climate change. Romney followed it up with an appearance on Fox News this morning calling on Gingrich to return $1.6 million in consulting fees he received from Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage company.

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Gingrich, speaking to over 200 employees at Insight Technology, said he planned to run a positive campaign. “The contest here will be between the power of positive ideas versus the power of negative advertising,” Gingrich said.

But when asked afterwards by reporters about Romney’s call to return the Freddie Mac money, Gingrich had no hesitancy in attacking Romney’s own record at Bain Capital.

“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, then I would be glad to then listen to him,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich then referred to a much maligned comment from Romney at Saturday night’s debate, where Romney proposed a $10,000 bet with Texas Governor Rick Perry. “I would bet you $10, not $10,000, that he won’t take the offer,” Gingrich said.

Asked about the significance of the Romney bet, which Romney’s opponents have used to paint him as out of touch, Gingrich said, “I was startled because I know Rick Perry pretty well. I couldn’t imagine he could cover that. He’s been a public servant his whole career.”

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.
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