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Gingrich intensifies spat with Romney as Iowa caucuses near

Newt Gingrich continued to fire shots at Mitt Romney hours before the Iowa caucuses, blasting the former Massachusetts governor as a "Massachusetts moderate" after Romney suggested the former Speaker should not complain about negative attack ads.

"You know it's funny he would say that," Gingrich said during an interview Tuesday on Fox News. "When I was working with Ronald Reagan to defeat the Soviet Empire and relaunch the American economy, he was an Independent. When I was working to try to reelect President George H.W. Bush, he was voting for [former Massachusetts Sen.] Paul Tsongas in the Democratic primary. When I helped develop the Contract with America he said it was a bad idea and wouldn't sign it.

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"I think the record of which of us has been in the firing line, which of us has stood up to the left, which of us has been in Washington fighting tax increases, including tax increases in my own party — I'm pretty happy to compare shoulders with Gov. Romney."

Gingrich went on to say that he welcomed comparisons of the candidates' records, but was insulted by what he saw as lies in campaign ads aired by a pro-Romney political action committee.

"I think my record of being a solid conservative versus his record of being a Massachusetts moderate — I think it'll stand up just fine," Gingrich said.

But the former House Speaker rebuffed a question about whether he was now going negative, saying he was simply answering a direct question.

"I'm not going to lie in an interview," Gingrich said. "I think what's sick about Washington is all these people who smile and are phony and pretend, and in fact they are crippling the country by their unwillingness to tell the truth and to be honest."

Earlier Tuesday, Romney responded to Gingrich's charge that he was a "liar" for refusing to disavow a PAC ad that argued Gingrich supported taxpayer-funded abortions. Gingrich said that he would be open to federal funding of abortions in the case of rape, incest or medial risk to the mother during an interview in the 1990s, but has later maintained that he does not support any federal funding for abortions and believes that the practice should be illegal even in the case of rape or incest.

"Well, I understand Newt must be very angry, and I don't exactly understand why," Romney said on Fox News. "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?'

“I'm going to keep battling my campaign in the way I think is best and defending my record,” he added. “If the Speaker decides to come after me, why, that's part of the process. I'm ready for it, and my shoulders are wide. If I can't handle this kind of attack, why, how in the world would I handle the attack that's going to come from President Obama?"

Romney also noted that he was legally prohibited from coordinating with the political action committee.

"The super-PAC that happens to endorse me has put some ads out — I can't control those. We're not allowed to have a coordination between a campaign and these independent PACs," Romney said. "I'm sure they may have had an effect, but you know, the Speaker's had just as much difficulty in the polls in New Hampshire as he has in Iowa, and I don't think there are any negative ads going on there."

But Gingrich maintained that the ads were out of line.

"I've asked Romney for three weeks to tell his PAC to quit running negative ads. I've pointed out again and again that this is a terrible way to run for office," Gingrich said. "We have stayed positive. All of my ads remain positive."