(CNN) – A Mitt Romney surrogate downplayed the negative impact of his proposed $10,000 bet during Saturday’s GOP presidential debate as a “figure of speech.”
Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, a supporter of the former Massachusetts governor, also used his explanation to level a dig at current frontrunner Newt Gingrich.
“I think the only thing that will come out of that is it will remind people of a $500,000 outstanding bill at Tiffany’s,” Sununu said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Romney challenged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet Saturday to prove he did not remove a controversial line about mandating health care from his book. The moment quickly became a focal point of the debate, seemingly prompting Sununu to raise Gingrich’s Tiffany problem, which arose over the summer when news of a line of credit from the high-end jeweler became public.
Meanwhile, former Rep. Bob Walker, a Gingrich adviser, said the moment will prove damaging to Romney.
“The fact is anything that comes out of these debates that ends up being carried in the way that this one is, is going to be harmful,” Walker told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “The quip by Gov. Romney last night fits a matter of perception.”
Walker said Gingrich’s statements of truth are to blame for the disapproval he receives from the other GOP contenders, specifically citing his recent comments about an “invented Palestinian people.”
“He spoke the truth about Palestinian history,” Walker said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Sununu disagreed, saying the comments were the latest example of Gingrich, the former House speaker and history professor, trying to prove his intelligence.
“In an effort to put himself above the whole, a little smarter than everyone, he throws out a phrase that can undermine the U.S. capacity to deal with issues,” Sununu said.
Gingrich drew criticism after he told The Jewish Channel last week that historically, the Palestinian people were “invented.”
"I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state," Gingrich said in the interview. "Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, who are historically part of the Arab community."
Some Palestinian leaders declared his statement “racist,” while Team Gingrich stood by the interview, saying he was simply referencing “decades of complex history.”
Walker compared the push-back to that felt by former President Ronald Reagan from “establishment Republicans” after his classification of the former Soviet Union as the “evil empire.”
However, Sununu said, “Every time this man [Gingrich] speaks he tries to put himself in a position where he’s perceived as being better than those that are involved in the discussion.”
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