MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa - Newt Gingrich said today he's had the flu for the last two days, and while it's a terrible way to campaign just before the Iowa caucuses, Gingrich was also plagued by another, bigger bug: Mitt Romney's Super PAC, Restore Our Future.
Gingrich told the press Gatorade helped him weather his illness on the trail, but he wishes he would have gotten rid of his other ailment in Iowa much sooner.
"If I could have done anything different, I would have pulled the plug on Romney's PAC," Gingrich said. "I probably should have responded faster and more aggressive than that."
The Romney campaign and the Super PAC supporting the former Massachusetts governor unleashed a barrage of attack ads on the Iowa airwaves against Gingrich last month, likely responsible for sending Gingrich plummeting in the polls.
Forty-five percent of all TV ads in Iowa were attack ads against Gingrich, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group. The Gingrich campaign held teleconferences to push back against the negative TV ads and mailers, but did not release any TV ads answering the attacks or comparing his record to other candidates.
When asked if he felt "swiftboated" by the Romney campaign - referring to the attack ads launched by a Republican PAC against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 - Gingrich replied, "I feel Romney-boated."
He told the press he wished he would have created an ad in Iowa repudiating the other candidate's attack ads on his work for Freddie Mac. In the future, he said, he plans to release TV ads that compare his record with Romney's.
"If somebody spends $3.5 million lying about you, you have some obligation to come back and set the record straight," Gingrich said.
Gingrich said there are ways to do a comparison TV ad that still align with a positive campaign.
"You can do very calm, very pleasant ads that the nature of the Republican Party is such that a calm and pleasant ad that says 'He was for tax-paid abortions, I'm against it,'" Gingrich said. "You can say it happily, pleasantly, it works just by the nature of the data."
Gingrich said he "likes the gamble we have taken" in running positive ads, saying Iowa is an "experiment" for his campaign. Gingrich said today he plans to take a different approach in the future against the looming attacks ads by Super PACs facing the former speaker of the House in the next primary states in line, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Gingrich said he plans to make it more clear to voters that Romney's super PAC is run by former staffers and current donors.
"These are his ads," Gingrich said. He plans to compile a list of names and publicize how closely related they are to Romney, he said.
Romney recently said he was not responsible for his Super PAC and communicating with them would land him "in the big house." Gingrich took a swipe at Romney's character today and said he could stop the Super PAC's ads if he wanted to.
"Here is my simple tag line. Somebody who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president," Gingrich said.
Gingrich makes his case for a showing at Iowa Caucus Monday on the final leg of his bus tour before the caucuses on Tuesday.