Romney slaps down Gingrich: 'You've got to earn' the nomination

Mitt Romney slapped down Newt Gingrich on Friday for making "self-aggrandizing statements" about the likelihood of his becoming the Republican presidential nominee. 

"Over the last year there have been a lot of people who have been real high in the polls who are not high in the polls anymore," Romney said on Fox News. "There's this funny thing in America, it's called an 'election.' To win an election you've got to earn it."

Gingrich the day before had declared, "I'm going to be the nominee." He pointed to his abrupt rise in recent polls as proof.

“It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee," Gingrich told ABC News.

"Self-aggrandizing statements about polls are not going to win elections," Romney said on Fox. "I'm not going to count the chickens before they hatch; there is an election that has to happen. ... The polls bounce around a lot, but fortunately, over the last year, I've been able to have a pretty strong spot in the opinions of people in this country."

Romney and Gingrich have taken cautious steps toward a face-off this week, with both front-runners offering compliments for the other before providing comparison points.

Romney supporter New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn't hold back in his assessment on Thursday, slamming Gingrich for being a legislator, rather than a governor like Romney. 

“Speaker Gingrich has never run anything,” he said in Florida, according to multiple reports. “And he’s been a legislator. I have to tell you, I don’t think being a legislator is the best calling card. Look at the guy we have in the White House now. He never ran anything and was a legislator.”

Romney stood by Christie's remarks, and laughed off his statement as "hardly an attack" on Gingrich.

"I think America needs to have a leader who's run things," Romney said on Fox. "I'm sure if America feels that we need somebody who's lived in Washington for the last 40 years to run the country, he's a good choice. I actually believe that what we need is someone who's lived out in America, not in Washington."

Romney's appearance on "Fox & Friends" comes after a day of criticism for his Fox News interview earlier in the week on Bret Baier's "Special Report."

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) spent some energy criticizing the interview as "disastrous" and promoting Romney's fellow Republican, Jon Huntsman's, own attack video using interview footage. Baier also went on another Fox News show to accuse Romney of complaining that the interview was too "aggressive."

Romney did not want to discuss the Baier interview on Friday, simply saying "it worked pretty well" and calling it "a good opportunity" to "bat back" some of the mud-slinging by the DNC.