(CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Thursday seemed to be lowering expectations for the upcoming Iowa caucuses, saying he'd be happy with a third or fourth place finish.
"My goal is to be the top three or four [in Iowa]," the former House speaker said at a campaign stop in Richmond, Virginia. "I'd love to win."
His comment comes one day after a new poll indicated that Texas Rep. Ron Paul now holds the top spot in the Hawkeye State, with 28% of Iowa Republican caucus goers saying Paul would be their first choice.
Meanwhile, Gingrich came in second with 25% of support, a three percentage point margin well within the poll's sampling error.
The results reflect a slip in the polls for Gingrich, who was ahead in the Iowa race earlier in the month according to several surveys.
Also in early December, Gingrich made headlines when he told a reporter he would win the Republican nomination, saying, "It's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee."
The comment was quickly criticized as presumptuous among Republican circles. Later that day, Gingrich dialed back his confidence, saying the GOP nomination was up to the voters, not him.
While Gingrich expects to come in third or fourth in Iowa, he said he has higher predictions for other early voting states.
"I probably will be in the top two in New Hampshire, and then to win South Carolina and Florida," Gingrich said.
Gingrich has tried to maintain a positive campaign as his opponents attack his recent frontrunner status.
Playing defense, Gingrich held phone conferences with supporters and media availabilities with the press in the last week to answer some of the ads launched against him.
For example, on Monday, Gingrich took an apparent swipe at opponent Mitt Romney, who's repeatedly called Gingrich an "unreliable" 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," Gingrich said at a campaign stop in Iowa.
But on Thursday, Gingrich denied that his response to the attacks has caused him to go negative, saying he is simply being honest.
"I don't regard telling the truth as an attack," Gingrich said. "It may feel like an attack to people who are lying, but I think telling the truth is a legitimate part of politics."
The Iowa caucuses, the nation's first Republican presidential contest, are set for January 3.