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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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He supported raising the debt ceiling, anathema to many conservatives, and castigated the Medicare portion of the Ryan plan, popular with the GOP's right flank, as "right-wing social engineering," a phrase he later apologized for using. On the latest issue, Gingrich favors a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut.

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He has argued that he's a proven national leader for having battled Democratic President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. He usually doesn't mention that as House speaker back then, he bore much of the blame for the federal government twice shutting down when he could not agree on a budget with the Clinton White House.

On Wednesday, in Iowa, he tried to use the latest stalemate to his advantage, saying: "This is an example of why people are sick of Washington and sick of politics."

Meanwhile, in eastern Iowa, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, vying for the conservative crown in Iowa, blasted the extension as "a very bad proposition" that's too costly.

Gingrich is trying to end his slide in Iowa, where the attacks have taken hold in the past two weeks, with a show of force from establishment Republican leaders in early voting states endorsing his candidacy. He also was dispatching former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts to Iowa to meet privately with GOP leaders and the media in an attempt to stabilize the campaign.

The spat between Romney and Gingrich over third-party ads has dominated the GOP campaign in recent days and highlighted the role of super PACs, independent groups that may accept unlimited donations but are not supposed to directly coordinate with candidates.

Such groups have sprung up to support every serious Republican candidate following a Supreme Court decision last year that said individuals, unions and corporations can donate unlimited sums of money to outfits advocating the election or defeat of candidates.

Two pro-Gingrich groups have started raising money and Gingrich's longtime aide Rick Tyler just signed on with one of them. But Romney's supporters have had a head start in raising money and are slated to spend $3 million this month in Iowa alone, most on anti-Gingrich ads.

Gingrich, who trails Romney badly in fundraising, said he would disavow any group that runs negative ads on his behalf.

Signaling a possible softening of ads just before the holiday, Gingrich this week began showing a Christmas greeting commercial while Texas Gov. Rick Perry launched one featuring his wife, Anita.

But the spirit hadn't hit with a group supporting Perry, which launched an ad criticizing Romney for his past support of abortion rights and Gingrich for ethics violations while in Congress.

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