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Lauer to Newt: Aren't You Making Obama's Eventual Attack on Romney?

On Monday's Today, NBC's Matt Lauer dwelt on an "extremely negative" attack on frontrunner Mitt Romney from a super PAC that supports Newt Gingrich and asked the former Speaker, "Can't you already hear the ads from President Obama's team saying this is a guy whose own party members called him...a predator and ruthless?" Back on January 4, CBS similarly played up Gingrich calling Romney a "liar."

Midway through the interview, the anchor noted that the super PAC, "Winning the Future," attacks Romney as a "greedy, ruthless corporate raider who has slashed jobs for profit." He then asked his guest, "Are you completely in favor of the running of that film, and do you agree with everything it says?"

Gingrich initially answered, "I have no idea. I haven't seen the film yet, but I will at some point." Lauer pressed ahead and replied, "But you've read about it." Gingrich then added, in part, "I've read about it, but what I've read about it said that it's based upon historical facts. I think, at some point, Governor Romney is going to have to hold a press conference and walk through, with considerable detail, some of the companies that Bain took over, where they apparently looted the companies, left people unemployed, and walked off with millions of dollars."

The NBC journalist then raised the possibility of his GOP opponent being the nominee and how the President's reelection campaign may use the Republican infighting to their advantage:

LAUER: But considering the fact that Governor Romney- considering the fact that Governor Romney may eventually be the nominee of the party, can't you already hear the ads from President Obama's team saying this is a guy whose own party members called him a corporate raider, a predator, and ruthless?

Gingrich replied, "Any Republican who gets the nomination is going to have [David] Axelrod and Obama figuring out every possible way- they are going to raise a billion dollars. They're not raising- as the governor himself said in your quote, this ain't bean bag. They aren't going to raise a billion dollars for fun. They're going to come after any Republican."

The presidential hopeful also appeared on CBS's revamped morning show, CBS This Morning. New anchor Charlie Rose twice cited Gingrich's "pious baloney" barb at Romney during the segment and wondered if his guest needed to "gain some momentum by tearing down Mitt Romney."

The full transcript of Matt Lauer's interview of Newt Gingrich on NBC's Today, which aired five minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour:

MATT LAUER: Newt Gingrich is in Concord, New Hampshire this morning. Mr. Speaker, nice to see you. Good morning.

NEWT GINGRICH: You know, it's good to be with you. It's an exciting time-

LAUER: Governor Romney- go ahead.

GINGRICH: By the way, I was going to say happy birthday. I remember as a child watching the Today show in black and white television. It gives you a sign of my age. Congratulations on 60 years. It's a remarkable achievement.

LAUER: You had me nervous. I thought you were going to say as a child, I remember watching me on the Today show. (Gingrich laughs) Let me just say that Governor Romney has a chance to do something here that no other non-incumbent Republican candidate has ever done: win Iowa and New Hampshire. If he pulls it off tomorrow, is he the prohibitive favorite for the nomination?

[NBC News Graphic: "Decision 2012: Newt Gingrich One-On-One"]

GINGRICH: No. This is his third best state after Utah and Massachusetts. If he were not to win here however- if it's very, very close, which it could be because he's been sliding now for four days, I think it is a defeat for him. This is a state that he's bought a house in; this is a state that he's lived in; it's a state where was governor next door. It's a state where he's been buying advertising since 1994, as a candidate, on Boston television, which reaches much of the state. I think that he was the prohibitive favorite going in, and if anything, I think his position is more precarious this morning, based, at least, on the Suffolk poll. He's clearly not moving toward a decisive win, and he may be moving toward a really surprisingly weak finish.

LAUER: In the weeks before Iowa, you surged to the lead, and then, you got a big target on your back. (Gingrich laughs) You became the center of a lot of negative ads, and let's face it, they worked. Did they work because your support was soft? I mean, it seems it would be hard to shake firm support with negative ads. Did they work because your support is soft?

GINGRICH: Well, they worked because my support had been based on positive ideas, positive solutions for creating jobs, heading economic growth, getting to a balanced budget. Those are all positive ideas. Forty-five percent of the ads run in Iowa were attack ads against me. I have to say with a fairly long career in politics, that was a breathtaking achievement. When you would get up and eight or nine ads an hour would be attacking, six or eight pieces of negative mail a day, four or five robo-calls a day- it was pretty stunning. I was thrilled that we did as well as we did in Iowa because we didn't go negative, we didn't try to respond-

LAUER: Right, and-

GINGRICH: But it made clear to me you had to run a much more decisive contrast ad and contrast campaign with Romney, because you couldn't allow him to run false ads and then get away with it, and then, claim you didn't know what were in them. As you noted in the debate, by the way, he first said he didn't know what was in the ads, and then, he cited one of them. It was a pretty amazing-

LAUER: All right. Well, now, there is super PAC out there, 'Winning The Future,' that is supporting you, and it has purchased a 30-minute- I don't know whether to call it a film or a super ad- that is extremely negative about Governor Romney in his time as CEO at Bain Capital. It says he is- quote, 'greedy, ruthless corporate raider who has slashed jobs for profit.' As I said, it's being paid for by a super PAC, and by law, you can't have any direct contact with that super PAC. Are you completely in favor of the running of that film, and do you agree with everything it says?

GINGRICH: I have no idea. I haven't seen the film yet, but I will at some point-

LAUER: But you've read about it-

GINGRICH: I've read about it, but what I've read about it said that it's based upon historical facts. I think, at some point, Governor Romney is going to have to hold a press conference and walk through, with considerable detail, some of the companies that Bain took over, where they apparently looted the companies, left people unemployed, and walked off with millions of dollars. Look, I'm for capitalism. I'm for people who go in to save a company. I'm for people who take real risk. I'm for people who grow jobs, and I understand sometimes you fail. I mean, I've run four small businesses in the last decade. It gets tough out there. It doesn't always work- I get that. But if somebody comes in, takes all the money out of your company, and then, leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that's not traditional capitalism, and I think Governor Romney's-

LAUER: But considering the fact that Governor Romney- considering the fact that Governor Romney may eventually be the nominee of the party, can't you already hear the ads from President Obama's team saying this is a guy whose own party members called him a corporate raider, a predator, and ruthless?

GINGRICH: Any Republican who gets the nomination is going to have [David] Axelrod and Obama figuring out every possible way- they are going to raise a billion dollars. They're not raising- as the governor himself said in your quote, this ain't bean bag. They aren't going to raise a billion dollars for fun. They're going to come after any Republican. That's why, I think, a Reagan conservative who's articulate, who can debate effectively, is much more likely to beat Obama than somebody who can't defend their record-

LAUER: Right-

GINGRICH: And I think Governor Romney will have to defend what he did at Bain. That's his record. He's proud of the fact that he wasn't in public office while I was- fine. He can take on my public record, but then, he owes us a report on his stewardship of his private record, and we ought to do it now, because whatever happens this spring, I guarantee you it will be much worse in September and October, and we wouldn't want to stumble into a campaign not knowing what's at risk.

LAUER: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich- Mr. Gingrich, it's nice to see you. Thanks for your time this morning.

GINGRICH: It's good to be with you. Thank you.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.