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Break out the popcorn because if this morning is any indication, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are gearing up to destroy each other.

Here's the latest: Earlier today, Mitt Romney called on Newt Gingrich to return the $1.6 million he took in consulting fees from Freddie Mac. Given Freddie Mac's unpopularity on the right, that's a demand that could put Gingrich in a difficult spot ... but instead of wilting in the face of Romney's attack, Gingrich returned fire with a tough shot of his own.

In response to Romney's broadside, Gingrich (video at top of post) refused to entertain returning the money unless Romney returned the money he earned at Bain Capital, where Gingrich says Romney became wealthy by "bankrupting companies and laying off employees":

I love the way he and his consultants think of these things. I would just like to 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. And I'll bet you $10—not $10,000—that he won't take the offer.

The thing about this exchange is that neither Romney nor Gingrich come of looking good here. Romney's attack reminds voters that despite his claims otherwise, Newt Gingrich has spent much of the last decade as a glorified (and highly paid) lobbyist, at least in function if not name. And Gingrich's attack on Mitt Romney opens up questions about Romney's record at Bain that have largely been ignored during the Republican nomination process.

Both Romney and Gingrich are so far ahead of their rivals that it feels like a two-person race, but it's still a multi-candidate field, and the first votes have not yet been cast. And as much fun as it is for those of us who support President Obama to watch them go nuclear on each other, it's got to be just as thrilling for the rest of the GOP field. After all, delegates—not polls—win the nomination, and Republicans won't even be at the halfway point for delegate selection until March. So if Romney and Gingrich blow each other up, you could still see one of the other candidates—or perhaps even a candidate who isn't currently running—end up with the nomination. Fun times, eh?

10:55 AM PT: Romney's response here.

Originally posted to The Jed Report on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 09:09 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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