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Gingrich Hits Romney For Laying Off Workers As CEO, $10,000 Debate Bet

Newt Gingrich in a Hollis, N.H. pharmacy, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.
Elise Amendola
Newt Gingrich in a Hollis, N.H. pharmacy, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.

Newt Gingrich demonstrated Monday why it will be such a challenge for Mitt Romney to go negative on the former speaker — Gingrich is like a judo black belt of that political technique. Going negative on him means having your force used against you.

Go no further than how he countered a Romney attack. The former Massachusetts governor said Monday that Gingrich ought to return the money he received from mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

On Fox and Friends when asked if he thought Gingrich should return the Freddie Mac money, Romney said "I sure do" saying it was just another example of what's wrong with Washington with Gingrich, a career politician, exploiting his Capitol Hill ties to make big money once he left public office.

To which Gingrich said, as reported on CNN's Political Ticker blog:

"If Gov. Romney would like to give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain that I would be glad to then listen to him," Gingrich told reporters after a town hall, referring to the company Romney ran. "And I'll bet you 10 dollars, not 10 thousand that he won't take the offer." has the video.

Gingrich may not endear himself with private-equity firm managers or their investors. But there probably aren't many of them who will be voting in the Republican primaries and caucuses.

Gingrich's attack on Romney was so populist and pro-labor sounding, it could have easily come out of the mouth of a Democrat.

Not only did Gingrich manage to remind everyone of Romney's past as a private-equity manager who acquired companies and wrung costs from them by laying off workers, he also got in a reference to the $10,000 bet Romney offered Texas Gov. Rick Perry during Saturday's debate.

Monday's back and forth makes it clear that if Romney eventually wins the nomination, it's likely only going to be after Gingrich has well pummeled him.

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.