By Alicia M. Cohn and Meghashyam Mali - 01/03/12 01:46 PM EST
Newt Gingrich continued his attacks on Mitt Romney on Tuesday, suggesting his GOP rival had been dishonest about his involvement with super-PAC ads that have targeted Gingrich in Iowa and contributed to his slump in the polls.
On CBS’s "The Early Show," reporter Norah O’Donnell asked Gingrich about recent statements accusing Romney of having closer ties to super-PACs than his campaign has admitted.
“You said of Mitt Romney, somebody who has lied to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president. I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?” said O'Donnell.
“You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?” she followed up, to which Gingrich replied, "Well, you seem shocked by it."
“This is a man whose staff created the PAC. His millionaire friends fund the PAC. He pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC — it’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth,” Gingrich said.
“It’s like his pretense that he’s a conservative. Here’s a Massachusetts moderate who has tax-paid abortions in RomneyCare, who has Planned Parenthood in RomneyCare, raises hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes on businesses, appoints liberal judges to appease Democrats and wants the rest of us to believe he is somehow magically a conservative."
Since vaulting to front-runner status in numerous polls in December, Gingrich has faced withering attacks from the former Massachusetts governor and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas). PACs backing those candidates have blanketed Iowa with ads attacking him. Gingrich has called on Romney to disavow the attacks or stop them.
Later, on CNN’s "Starting Point," Gingrich continued to blast Romney for not condemning or stopping the Iowa ad blitz, which has taken a toll on the former House Speaker, calling the attack campaign "an embarrassment."
Gingrich said that absent the “avalanche of Romney attack ads, a complete distortion of my record, I think I’d still be running first.” He slammed the ads as “dishonest and inaccurate.”
When asked if his insistence on not running similar attack ads had hurt him and if he would alter his strategy, Gingrich insisted he would stay the course, suggesting that the negative advertisements could still backfire on his rivals.
“We’ve been running positive all the way through. Every ad we’ve run has been positive,” he said. “What if it works tonight? ... Then you have a whole generation of consultants who are unemployed."
Gingrich said he had heard from Iowans “sick of six, seven attack ads an hour.” “The number of people in the last three days who’ve thanked me for being positive has been remarkable," he said.
He said in New Hampshire he would continue to “contrast Romney’s moderate Massachusetts record with my record.”
Gingrich also backtracked from statements on Monday that he did not expect to win the Iowa caucuses, saying instead that any of four candidates were well-positioned to win in the Hawkeye State. Polls have shown Gingrich, who led the pack in December, now in fourth place, behind Romney, Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is surging.
"I think we could win," said Gingrich. "Four of us are in a position to win this come late tonight."
Although Gingrich has criticized Romney for taking a hands-off approach to a pro-Romney super-PAC running negative ads against him, on Fox News on Tuesday, Romney credited Ron Paul's negative campaign ads for being "by far the most effective in pointing out the Speaker's record" in Iowa.
"The Speaker's had just as much difficulty in the polls in New Hampshire as he did in Iowa, and I don't think there are any negative ads going on there," Romney said on Fox. "I know that it's always tempting to look for someone else to blame, but at some point you've got to stop and say, 'OK, what things can I do better?' "
Romney promised he's "ready for it" when it comes to attacks on his own record. "My shoulders are wide, and if I can't handle this kind of attack, how in the world would I handle the attack that's going to come from President Obama?" he said, a defense he has used in the past.
This story was updated at 9:34 a.m.