<html> <head><style type ="text/css">body { font-family: "Bloomberg Prop Unicode I", Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:125%; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; color: #FF9F0F; background-color: #000000; text-align: left; } p {line-height: 1.25em; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" );} h1, h2, h3 { text-align: left; font-weight: normal; color: #FFFFFF; } h1 { font-size: 130%; } h2 { font-size: 115%; } h3 { font-size: 100%; } #bb-style { font-size: 90%; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); } b, strong { font-weight: bold; } i, em { color: #FEC54A; } pre { font-family: "Andale Mono", "Monaco", "Lucida Console"; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; line-height: 1.25em; } table { border: 0; font-size: 90%; width: 100%; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; } td, tr { text-align: left; } td.numeric { text-align: right; } a:link { color:#53B2F5; text-decoration: none; } a:visited {color:#53B2F5} a:active {color:#53B2F5} a:hover {color:#53B2F5} </style> </head> <body> <p>By Francis Wilkinson</p> <p>That didn't last long.</p> <p>Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich this morning departed from the campaign high road he had vowed just last week to follow. He <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-gingrich-romney-nh-20111212,0,3112450.story">attacked</a> rival Mitt Romney for his tenure at Bain Capital LLC, the private equity and leveraged buyout firm Romney ran for more than a decade. Upon hearing that Romney had said Gingrich should return approximately $1.6 million in consulting fees he had earned from Freddie Mac, Gingrich responded with an attack that Democrats will surely reprise should Romney win the Republican nomination:</p> <p>“I love the way he and his consultants do these things. I would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain that I would be glad to then listen to him. I’ll bet you $10, not $10,000” -- he said, referring to Romney’s $10,000 bet in Saturday night’s debate -- “that he won’t take the offer.”</p> <p>Gingrich has a penchant for rhetorical warfare, and for sometimes waging it <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/284472/newt-gingrich-said-iwhati">unwisely</a>. His restraint last week was likely a case of virtue borne of necessity: Romney has plenty of money to engage in a nasty tit-for-tat on the airwaves, while Gingrich doesn't.</p> <p>What Gingrich does have is the Republican debates. Saturday night's debate drew more than 7.5 million viewers, making it the night's <a href="http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2011/12/12/abc-news-iowa-republican-debate-is-saturdays-no-1-program-in-viewers/113420/">ratings winner</a> and the top draw of all the debates so far. With another  scheduled for Thursday, Gingrich is assured a big platform to counter Romney's advertising. Things could get ugly in a hurry.</p> <p>(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)</p> </body> </html>