As he sought to consolidate his strong support in New Hampshire before heading to Iowa, Mitt Romney opted on Tuesday for mockery over menace in criticizing Newt Gingrich, even as his GOP presidential rival denounced Romney’s attack ads and record as Massachusetts’ governor.

Appearing in Portsmouth, Romney noted a statement that Gingrich’s campaign director compared the former House speaker’s recent inability to qualify for the Virginia ballot as a setback comparable to Pearl Harbor from which the campaign would recover.

“I think he compared that to Pearl Harbor? I think it’s more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory,” Romney said in reference to the famous I Love Lucy skit in which the comedienne was overwhelmed by a rapid assembly line of candies. “You’ve got to get it organized.”

In another appearance in Londonderry, Romney also took a subtle swipe at Gingrich for a 2008 speech in which he praised Romney’s health care plan and the individual health insurance mandate at its heart. “I’m familiar with the fact that he supported individual mandates in the past and was supportive generally of the plan in Massachusetts, and he’s changed his view in the election year,” Romney said.

Romney was more circumspect in criticizing Rep. Ron Paul, who has found himself immersed in considerable controversy over a series of racist newsletter writings. “I haven’t seen the Ron Paul newsletters. From what I understand, he repudiated them and, from what I understand, that was the right course for him to take.”

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