SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Newt Gingrich chided his GOP presidential opponents in a new TV ad for going negative as Mitt Romney sought anew Thursday to cast his chief challenger as an unreliable leader, a preview of likely lines of criticism ahead of the final GOP presidential debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.
"These are challenging and important times for America. We want and deserve solutions," Gingrich said in the ad running in Iowa, trying to stay above the fray while also poking at his opponents. "Others seem to be more focused on attacks rather than moving the country forward. That's up to them."
While Gingrich didn't name any of his fellow Republican rivals, he clearly was referring to them. Chief among them is Romney and his allies who have launched an aggressive effort to derail the former House speaker during campaign events, media interviews and, in the case of a super PAC aligned with Romney, TV ads.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul also is assailing Gingrich on television. And Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have stepped up their criticism of Gingrich as all work to stunt his rise in Iowa and elsewhere less than three weeks before the first votes are cast in the GOP nominating contests.
All were campaigning in the state before meeting on stage in Sioux City late Thursday for a debate sponsored by Fox News Channel and the Iowa Republican Party.
With time running short, Romney's campaign redoubled its efforts to cast Gingrich as an unreliable leader on a host of fronts, releasing campaign statements and web videos assailing him.
One such video showed an old clip of Gingrich praising Romney, saying: "Gov. Romney in his business career created more jobs than the entire Obama Cabinet combined, so he could actually talk about it."
In a statement, Romney himself chastised Gingrich for calling Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, which is popular among many conservatives, "right-wing social engineering." And, Romney pointed to a comment Gingrich made last week to the "Coffee & Markets" podcast, where Gingrich said: "If there's a program which is very, very unpopular, should Republicans impose it? And my answer is no! When we passed welfare reform, 92 percent of the country favored it, including 88 percent of people on welfare. (Ronald) Reagan ran to be a popular president, not to maximize suicide."
Romney argued that Gingrich was calling Ryan's plan suicide and added: "I know it can be popular with some people to use extreme language, but we're talking about the presidency of the United States."
Romney's campaign also highlighted support from a group of former Reagan administration officials, although many of the names had been previously announced. The announcement was a jab at Gingrich, who has begun been selling himself as a "Reaganite." After a candidates' debate last week, Gingrich's campaign immediately blasted out a statement declaring, "Newt Gingrich claims the Reagan mantle."