Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CNN) – The day before Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were to face off at a GOP presidential debate, Romney seemed largely content to leave the attacks on his rival to others.
In recent days the former Massachusetts governor's campaign has deployed surrogates and released a web ad critical of Gingrich to try to dim the former House speaker's rising star.
But at a town hall in at a nutritional animal feed plant in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Romney took few digs at Gingrich, reserving much of his fire for President Barack Obama.
Romney was repeatedly asked about the former House speaker, who leads in the polls in Iowa.
A man in the audience gave the candidate a perfect opening, asking him about a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare that, he said, notably lacked support from "one of the candidates in the race."
In May Gingrich called the plan "right-wing social engineering" but quickly walked back his statement.
"This is a place where Speaker Gingrich and I disagree," Romney said Friday. "He called this right-wing social engineering."
Romney then went on to describe the details of his plan.
That morning Romney's campaign had released a web video attacking Gingrich for his comments about the proposal - a comment Romney surrogate John Sununu called "self-aggrandizing" and "self-serving" on a call with reporters Friday.
Another audience member asked Romney about why he was the best candidate to take on Obama in general election debates.
"I understand the economy, not just as an academic, not just a politician, but as someone who has worked in the economy for 25 years," he said, in what seemed to be a veiled slight towards Gingrich's career as a history professor and congressman.
But at a press conference following his speech - the third such media availability in a week - Romney said any of the Republicans in the race would be better than Obama.
"Yes, they're all qualified, including Speaker Gingrich," he said.
Romney would not repeat the Gingrich attack made by Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire.
"I can't write a script for Gov. Sununu or anybody else," he said.
During his event Romney also discussed the hot-button issue of immigration with Iowa voters, telling a man that illegal immigrants might "have a transition time to allow them to set their affairs in order and then go back home and get in line with everybody else."
He added "we're not going to go across the country and round people up. That's just too big of a task."
After the event Romney's campaign released a statement about a decision by the National Labor Rights Board to drop its suit against Boeing over a labor dispute. In the statement Romney called the move a "welcome step" but continued his criticism of the agency.
"Thanks to President Obama's appointees, the NLRB has become a rogue agency that tramples on the rights of American workers and businesses, injecting job-killing uncertainty into the economic climate," Romney said in the statement.