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Payroll tax and attack ads latest issues for Romney and Gingrich to lock horns over

A payroll tax extension may be on the way but Republicans like Newt Gingrich insist on a one-year extension.  Meanwhile Romney supporters have continued airing ads attacking Gingrich in Iowa.  Gingrich tried to take the higher road but Romney says 'if it's too hot for you, get out of the kitchen.'

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"I'm sure I could go out and say, 'Please, don't do anything negative,'" Romney said on Fox News. "But this is politics. And if you can't stand the heat in this little kitchen, wait until Obama's Hell's Kitchen turns up the heat."

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Gingrich shot back from Manchester, N.H.: "If he wants to test the heat, I'll meet him anywhere in Iowa next week." He went on: "If he wants to try out the kitchen, I'll be glad to debate him anywhere. We'll bring his ads and he can defend them."

Gingrich tried to show he was aiming for a higher road. He started collecting petition signatures from like-minded people who don't want to see the Republican candidates ripping into each other.

"Attacking fellow Republicans only helps one person: Barack Obama," the petition states.

Gingrich has complained that the Restore Our Future ads, most painting him as an ethically challenged Washington power broker, are untrue. But he declined to say during a news conference in Des Moines on Wednesday what specifically is inaccurate about the ads, instead citing independent reviews that have questioned their validity.

"It would be nice if Governor Romney was either honest about his former staff and his supporters running negative ads, and either disown them - ask that they take them off the air - or admit this is his campaign," Gingrich said.

Gingrich made similar remarks later in northern Virginia, a state where he must file 10,000 voters' signatures by Thursday to qualify for the March 6 primary. Romney and other candidates took care of that task long ago. Gingrich told a crowd in Arlington he had more than enough names, but his staff signed up everyone in the room all the same.

For his part, Romney largely took a pass on the payroll tax matter despite casting himself as an outsider with the business expertise necessary to fix Washington and the economy. He has spent much of the year declining to weigh in on the hot-button fiscal issues Congress has wrestled over.

He stayed out of the summertime fight over raising the federal debt ceiling, urging cooperation but stopping short of endorsing the House GOP's one-year extension or the Senate's two-month extension. He eventually opposed the deal.

In the spring, he was initially reluctant to embrace Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal, which would have essentially transformed Medicare into a voucher system. Since then, he's endorsed parts of it.

And on Wednesday, Romney told NBC's Chuck Todd that if he becomes the nominee, he will not release histax returns to the public.

Gingrich, conversely, hasn't shied away from injecting himself into the latest debates on Capitol Hill, eager to show that he has the leadership qualifications necessary to run Washington and the country - even when it was politically perilous.

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