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Gingrich says Romney should be exposed to criticism.
Gingrich says Romney should be exposed to criticism.

MANCHESTER, N.H. - Iowa voters might not recognize the Newt Gingrich of the New Hampshire stump.

The former House speaker ferociously and repeatedly attacked Mitt Romney’s business record yesterday, saying Romney ruined lives as he enriched his own.

“He’s the one who went around and said, ‘Look, I’ve got this 20 years’ experience,’ ’’ Gingrich said after a visit to an electric company here. “Fine, now let’s talk about the 20 years’ experience.’’

Romney’s experience, Gingrich said, left a trail of destruction in some communities, and he called Romney’s legacy one of shuttered factories, broken families, and destitute neighborhoods.

Gingrich has been leading the charge against Romney’s record as chief executive of Bain Capital, an equity investment, venture capital, and leveraged buyout firm that Romney led in the 1990s. Romney has pointed to the company’s successes, such as helping Staples, arguing that his overall record there was one of job creation.

A month ago, Gingrich vowed to run a positive campaign, only to watch his lead in Iowa vaporized by a slew of negative advertisements, mostly from an independent group backing Romney. Now a group supporting Gingrich is about to unleash its own negative ads, this time in South Carolina, blasting Romney’s role at Bain.

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And the former House speaker is providing the prologue to that campaign in the town halls and shops of New Hampshire.

In doing so, Gingrich seeks to reverse his declining poll numbers, a slump that extended to South Carolina and Florida. A stronger-than expected showing in New Hampshire, considered Romney’s backyard, could lift the Georgian as he heads toward more favorable territory in the South.

Gingrich yesterday defended his new attacking posture, saying it is better for Republican voters to know the truth now and to force Romney to aggressively back his record.

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“If somebody is going to crumble, they better crumble before the nomination,’’ Gingrich said.

Gingrich also pummeled President Obama’s record, calling him a radical who has changed the nation profoundly. Under Obama, whom he called “the most successful food stamp president in history,’’ he told a crowd of 600 in Hudson that the country has become overly reliant on handouts.

“I want to be the best paycheck president in history,’’ Gingrich said.