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Newt Gingrich blasts Mitt Romney as moderate Massachusetts Republican

CONCORD, N.H. -- In his first post-caucuses appearance here today, Newt Gingrich unleashed a string of criticism against Mitt Romney, saying Romney’s narrowest of victories in Iowa only underscored his fundamental weakness as a candidate.

Speaking at the Holiday Inn to reporters, Gingrich said the former Massachusetts governor had outspent rivals by hundreds of thousands only to eke out an eight-vote victory.

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“The fact is three out of four Republicans rejected him,” Gingrich said. “Governor Romney is a moderate Massachusetts Republican to the left of the vast majority of Republicans.”

The Romney attack came during a question and answer session with reporters following a wide-ranging talk about education in which Gingrich steered clear of Romney and focused, on, among other things, the need for students to work during school and finish college faster to alleviate student debt.

Asked why he hadn’t discussed Romney during that portion of the event, Gingrich said he had responded to being in a room filled with people who wanted to talk about more than “competitive politics.”

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Answering claims made by Ron Paul this morning that he was a “chicken hawk” for supporting military engagements when he himself did not serve in Vietnam, Gingrich said Paul “says wild and outrageous things.” In fact, he said, he never sought a deferment from military duty in the 1960s.

“I never asked for a deferment because during that period I was a father so it was automatic,” he said.

Gingrich praised Michele Bachmann, who dropped out of the contest this morning, calling her “courageous.” He said he and Rick Santorum would likely be the beneficiaries of her votes since her voters don’t fit “ideologically” or “culturally” with Romney.

Gingrich has already picked up one vote from the Iowa caucuses fallout. Ayla Luers, a 21-year-old recent college graduate at the Holiday Inn event, said she was a Rick Perry backer until last night. His weak showing, she said, had made her reconsider her support and she was now a Gingrich backer.

“Gingrich was always a close second,” said Luers, of Concord. “But I didn’t like his personal issues.”

But she said, “He said he has made his peace with God and if he has made his peace with God, then that should be good enough for me.”

Sarah Schweitzer can be reached at sschweitzer@globe.com.
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