Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN) – Newt Gingrich, intensifying his efforts to frame the Republican presidential race as a showdown between his populist insurgency and Mitt Romney's establishment-backed campaign, sharpened his criticisms Friday of Romney's wealth and corporate resume.
Campaigning before about 100 people inside Stoney's Rockin' Country, a half-full honky tonk off Las Vegas Boulevard, Gingrich repeatedly veered into the class warfare rhetoric he often decries on the campaign trail.
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"This is a campaign of people power versus money power," the former House speaker declared.
Seizing on Romney's comment this week that he is "not concerned" about the poor, Gingrich called the former Massachusetts governor a "rich guy" incapable of connecting with working class Americans.
Gingrich said the "poor" comment, from which Romney later backtracked, was "not a very clever thing for somebody who is very wealthy to say."
"I think we want a candidate who represents Americans who work, pay taxes and believe in the Declaration of Independence, not somebody who is clearly against the American ideal," Gingrich said at a campaign stop in Las Vegas on Friday.
Painting Romney as beholden to big banks and moneyed interests, he condemned his opponent's proposal to index minimum wage to inflation, saying it would create a barrier for teenagers and minorities seeking jobs.
"The truth is he doesn't understand the free market," Gingrich said of his chief rival. "He understands a lot about finance, but finance is not the free market, and Wall Street is not Main Street, and giant businesses are not small businesses."
Gingrich hammered the class-based themes again and again.
He attacked out-of-touch news media "elites" who reside in Manhattan high rises and "ride the subway" (perhaps unaware of who rides public transportation in New York City).
At one point, he even compared Romney to President Barack Obama, whom he has routinely described as a "food stamp president."
Like Obama, he claimed, Romney wants Americans to live off food stamps instead of paychecks.
"Obama is big food stamp, he is little food stamp," Gingrich said of Romney. "But they both think food stamps are okay."
On the topic of housing, he said mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are more concerned with their bottom lines than helping Americans refinance their home loans.
"We did not create Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac so rich guys like Mitt Romney and Goldman Sachs can make money," Gingrich said, delivering one of his sharpest attacks against Romney to date.
He delivered the message despite fact that the Obama administration has rolled out several initiatives to help troubled homeowners refinance their mortgages.
Gingrich also ignored his own lucrative consulting work for Freddie Mac before the nationwide mortgage collapse began.
That point did not go unnoticed by Mike Thomas, a construction worker and undecided Republican voter who drove down from Reno just to see Gingrich speak.
"He basically sounded like the person most against those two companies, Freddie and Fannie," Thomas told CNN after the event. "So why was he working for them? I don't get it. I question how he can come here and attack them."
Romney's campaign said Gingrich is "detached from reality" and dismissed his "flailing attacks."
"Newt Gingrich would rather make misleading statements about Mitt Romney’s record than tell Nevada voters suffering from the housing crisis why he took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac or why he filmed a climate change ad with Nancy Pelosi that was funded by George Soros," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.