Gingrich challenges Romney to one-on-one debate over attack ads

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That prompted Gingrich's debate challenge.

“Look, I’ll tell you what. If he wants to test the heat, I’ll meet him anywhere in Iowa next week one on one, 90 minutes, no moderator,” Gingrich said.

He went on to accuse Romney of being unwilling to associate himself with the negative ads, which have dominated the airwaves in early voting states. The ads have been produced and paid for by a political action committee that supports Romney; federal election law prohibits campaigns and PACs from coordinating.

“Let’s test this kitchen,” Gingrich said. “I’m happy. I’ll go in the kitchen. Go back and ask Gov. Romney, would he like to play in the kitchen? I don’t think so. I don’t think he wants to do anything but hide over here and pretend it’s not his fault that he is flooding the people of Iowa with falsehoods. That’s his money and his staff and it’s his responsibility.”

Gingrich's once-ballooning poll numbers have deflated in the past week as the former House Speaker has struggled to combat the tough campaigning; a Rasmussen poll released Wednesday showed the former House Speaker trailing both Romney, by seven points, and Ron Paul, by 3 percent.

Earlier Wednesday, in an interview with radio host Laura Ingraham, Gingrich slammed the attacks as an "embarrassment to the American system."

"I have faith that the people of Iowa can see baloney, they understand baloney, this is baloney, they want the real thing," Gingrich said during an interview Wednesday on the Laura Ingraham show. "Newt Gingrich has actually balanced the budget, reformed welfare, cut taxes. I'm prepared to run a campaign of honesty and a campaign of facts and a campaign of positive ideas. And I think people are going to look up in this kind of economy with this kind of deficit and this kind of president — we don't need to replace Obama's dishonesty with a Republican who is equally dishonest."