- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2012

WATERLOO, Iowa — As Newt Gingrich struggles for a third-place finish in Tuesday’s Iowa caucus, he unleashed his harshest criticism of front-runner Mitt Romney yet, accusing the former Massachusetts governor of trying to buy the election.

At his first campaign appearance of the day in Ames, Iowa, the former House speaker was asked to clarify remarks earlier as he and his wife, Callista, were leaving church in which he appeared to charge Mr. Romney with attempting to buy the election.

“No, I didn’t say he was,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I said he would if he could … he would buy an election if he could.”

Mr. Gingrich was referring to a negative spate of ads underwritten by a super-PAC backing Mr. Romney, which Mr. Gingrich said cost a total of $3.5 million.

At his next stop in Marshalltown, Mr. Gingrich kept his comments brief to the roughly 300 people crowded in the Junction Bar and Grill, opting to speak to the crowd one-on-one and take photos with them individually after his remarks.

“Iowa has the opportunity to really change American politics by showing that negative campaigns don’t work,” Mr. Gingrich told the crowd.

“We cannot change the negativity and divisiveness of Washington by voting for the people running the negative campaign ads,” he said to thunderous applause.

After spending 20 minutes posing for photos, Mr. Gingrich held a press conference in which he continued skewering Mr. Romney for failing to stop the negative ads paid for by his supporters.

“He’s assuming that the American people are stupid …,” Mr. Gingrich said. “He didn’t get rid of me. He just slowed me down. We will make it increasingly clear that these are his ads … his former staff and his donors.”

“Someone who will lie to you to get to be president, will lie to you when he is president,” Mr. Gingrich added.

A reporter asked whether Mr. Gingrich felt “swift-boated,” a reference to a veterans group that ran ads against Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s failed presidential campaign in 2004.

“I feel Romney-boated,” Mr. Gingrich replied.

Later, at his final campaign stop of the day in Waterloo, Mr. Gingrich took issue with an ad run by a pro-Romney super-PAC claiming that Mr. Gingrich “teamed with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Al Gore on global warming.”

By sitting down on a couch with Mrs. Pelosi to discuss global warming, Mr. Gingrich said, he was trying to ensure that conservatives were “in the middle of an environmental debate and to offer a conservative alternative to it.”

“I don’t think we should walk off and allow liberals to be the only ones” to claim to care about the environment, he said.