RENO, Nev. (By Shawna Shepherd, CNN Political Producer) — White House hopeful Newt Gingrich cast Mitt Romney as out of touch with most Americans after his Republican presidential opponent took heat over remarks he made about the poor Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Romney sought to clarify a comment he made on CNN, in which he said he was not “concerned about the very poor.” The candidate later argued his words were taken out of context and re-iterated the full context of the quote, which was largely about his focus on the middle class.
“I’ve said throughout the campaign my focus, my concern, my energy is gonna be devoted to helping middle income people, all right?” Romney said to reporters. “We have a safety net for the poor in, and if there are holes in it, I will work to repair that. And if there are people that are falling through the cracks, I want to fix that.”
But that didn’t stop Gingrich from going after the former Massachusetts governor at his first campaign stop in Nevada.
“He was asked this morning what his concerns were. He said quote, I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I will fix it,” Gingrich said, while reading a piece of paper. “And then he went on to say in response to a follow-up question, he said quote, we will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor, you can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus.”
*GALLERY BELOW: A collection of GOP presidential race photographs from CNN.
Loosely paraphrasing Romney’s statement, the former House speaker did not mention the larger context of the statement.
“I am fed up with politicians in either party dividing Americans against each other,” Gingrich said. “My goal is to find steps for every American to have a job, every American to work, every American to be able to buy a house.”
A day after coming in distant second behind Romney in Florida, Gingrich kicked off his four-day Nevada swing in Reno at Great Masin Brewery. The former speaker sought to rally people behind a campaign pitting “people power against money power.”
But Florida is one example of the tough road ahead for Gingrich.
“And I don’t believe that governor Romney can afford to outspend us five to one every place in the country. And I guarantee you that’s not … enough for him to beat Obama, because I can assure you he’s not going to outspend Obama five to one,” he said. “I believe ideas matter. I believe people matter.”
— CNN’s Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.