Greenville, South Carolina (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich defended his professional record and embraced being labeled a "lifelong politician" by frontrunner rival Mitt Romney Wednesday.
"You know, I haven't been as successful as Mitt Romney," said Gingrich. "I've had a long work record in many different jobs and some of them have been really profitable and some of them didn't pay much."
Speaking to reporters at Tommy's Country Ham House, Gingrich pointed to babysitting at Fort Riley in Kansas and being a pinsetter at a bowling alley as low-paying jobs he held in his early teens.
Gingrich mentioned being a small business owner but the White House hopeful but did not mention the lucrative paid speaking circuit or the millions of dollars he earned from clients that included mortgage giant Freddie Mac, after serving for decades as a top House Republican.
Romney's critique of the former House Speaker comes after Gingrich took a swipe at the former Massachusetts governor's conservative record. The exchange follows a recent shift in the GOP presidential race, pitting the two candidates in a heated competition for the top spot in national polls.
Gingrich dismissed the notion that Romney was attacking him. "People get to do what they want to do. I'm going to stay positive," he said.
That didn't stop him from calling fellow presidential contender Michele Bachmann "factually challenged" and likening her to a misguided student.
"It's unfortunate. In the eyes of a teacher, occasionally I'd have a student who couldn't figure out where things were or what things were or what the right date was. When that happens you feel sorry that they're so factually challenged," said Gingrich.
Gingrich was chiding the Minnesota congresswoman for distorting his position on illegal immigration saying Gingrich favors amnesty for the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States. He added, "What I will say is voters will be pretty good over time at distinguishing between people who know the facts and people who don't know the facts."
Wrapping up a three-day campaign swing through the early southern primary state, Gingrich would not speculate whether his campaign might benefit if businessman Herman Cain ended his presidential campaign.
"I don't think you think in those kind of calculus at this point. He's got to do what he thinks is right. All the different candidates will do whatever they do in response to his decision," he said.
– Follow Shawna Shepherd on Twitter: @ShepherdCNN.
That is the problem! You are life long politician. That tells me you only care about the special intrests and your donars. Not the real people out there trying to make a living.
Only Newt could be proud of being a lifelong politician. He certainly isn't the only one, but the rest try to call themselves "public servants" or somesuch. Newt is a power professional. He understands power, and he understands how to get it, use it, trade it, and cash in on it. He has pursued power with the same focus and ruthlessness that Mitt pursued money. And after proving himself to be everything venal and evil that "politician" implies, he's proud of it.
"I do know a few sane, open minded, tolerant Republicans here in Houston, but only a few"
RINOs ALL OF THEM!!!
I just can't imagine this man as POTUS. He is arrogant, nasty and hateful talking to people that don't agree with him. He is condescending to people who he percieve as unworthy of him. I would never vote for him, I would sit it out first!
Wow! Really Mr. Newt ! I did not know all this about him.. One thing I have heard though about his affair is his response to the media is that he has reconciled with God about it.
... could we Dems *really* get that lucky??
"Even if Newt wins next November, the tea party will lose seats in Congress"
I wouldn't bet on that – the party of the winning presidential candidate typically also picks up congressional seats as well.
I would. Polls are showing Teatrolls who managed to get elected in 2010 are in extremely hot water in their districts...or on thin ice...depending on your temperature preference...or perhaps on whether you deny climate change science.
It must be nice to have a selective memory !
Newt's jealousy and ego say's it all ! This guy never wet the bed , he has daddy issues !
And then again , so does Mitt !
Lynda glad I could make you smile. These folks would be funnier if they were not running for the presidency and making a mockery of our political system. To think that this is the BEST that the GOP has to offer is quite sobering. I'm trying to keep it light in order to survive the next 12 months! lol!