Hiawatha, Iowa (CNN) – Newt Gingrich spent Monday in defensive mode in Iowa trying to shift the message away from negative attacks on the day a new poll showed momentum slipping for the Republican presidential candidate.
Speaking to Iowans gathered at a sports and promotions apparel company in Hiawatha, Gingrich shot back at his rivals who have been questioning the competitive frontrunner’s conservative credentials.
"[I]t has been the weight of a totally negative campaign by people who have nothing positive to offer,” Gingrich said at Level 10. “And my only request to the people of Iowa is when you get ready to vote in two weeks ask yourself, do you really want to reward politics as usual, negativity as usual, attack as usual, consultant as usual, fundraising from wall street millionaires as usual. Or do you want to vote for the only person that has consistently steadily been positive the entire campaign.”
With just weeks before the Iowa caucuses Gingrich said he believes all the negative attacks are to blame for his slip in the polls.
"Watch TV here for two days. You've had all sorts of people and all sorts of these super PACs who have consistently been running negative ads," he said in Davenport. "Well you get enough negative ads before you start answering them, your numbers go down for a while."
Iowans are paying attention also. One gentleman said to Gingrich in Hiawatha, “You are being bombarded almost daily in the mail and on television and radio. Who is this Restore our Future that is sending all this? Who is behind that?”
Historian, author and legislator Gingrich, who is often proclaimed the smartest candidate in the GOP field, asked the question rhetorically to the audience, then asked his press secretary to tell him Restore our Future is the Super PAC that is supporting but working independently from Mitt Romney's campaign.
“You know it would be nice if candidates were responsible for things being done by the people who know them personally who are trying to get them elected,” said Gingrich. “My plea to the people across this state for the next 14 days is simple: when you see one of these guys ask them how can they keep running this negative stuff.”
Although Gingrich’s vow to run a positive campaign resonates with Iowans – wherever he goes he’s urged by people in the audience to not go negative – he admits that “every once in a while I slip when they get my goat and I can’t quite help myself.”
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told CNN the campaign purchased $250,000 in a new one week ad buy that began Monday for the commercial previously put up in which Gingrich pledges a positive campaign. The previous buy for the same commercial was $250,000 that spanned the previous two weeks.
The campaign said it had succeeded in its goal of raising $500,000 this past weekend which it said was meant to help it purchase more TV time.
Gingrich doesn't often mention competitors by name but he seemed to take a swipe at the former Massachusetts governor, who has run a web video hitting the former speaker for going against Republican orthodoxy.
“[I] know there are a couple of ads that say Gingrich isn’t a consistent conservative. Now I don’t want to get into any attacks so I’m not going to comment on people who are suggesting I’m not a consistent conservative. Although one wonders how they would know one if they saw it,” he said, calling such ads “goofy.”
The former speaker may boast of his underdog status but Gingrich might be playing catch-up closer to the Iowa caucuses than he would like.
“Several of my competitors have vastly more money than I do … some have been running for years. And so we’re still putting our campaign together. It’s wild. It’s amazing,” said Gingrich. “So we actually have a campaign which is trying to catch up with popular support. It's very exciting, but as Callista knows it's a little bit tiring.”
Follow Shawna Shepherd on Twitter: @ShepherdCNN.