Gingrich: "I'm in the Chocolate Factory"

The fudge is flying between Newt and Mitt in the Hawkeye state.

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ALGONA, Iowa—I Love Lucy went off the air more than 50 years ago, but it has gained new life this week in a volley of criticisms between the two top Republican presidential candidates.

Today at a campaign stop at a chocolate shop here, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took the opportunity to respond to a recent dig by his top competitor, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"Governor Romney had a cute line yesterday about my team resembling Lucy in the chocolate factory. And I just want to say, 'Here I am in the chocolate factory.' "

The assembled crowd responded with applause and laughter.

Gingrich continued by throwing down the gauntlet at Romney.

"And now that I have the courage to come to the chocolate factory, I hope Governor Romney will have the courage to debate me one on one and defend his negative ads," said Gingrich, who has repeatedly requested a one-on-one debate with Romney.

Earlier this week, when Gingrich failed to obtain the 10,000 valid signatures necessary to get onto the Virginia primary ballot, Romney blasted the Gingrich campaign for being disorganized, comparing the gaffe to a famous I Love Lucy episode, in which the heroine was overwhelmed by a fast-moving conveyor belt of chocolates.

Gingrich wasn't the only one whom Romney might have taunted; only two candidates—Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul—managed to make it onto the Virginia ballot.

The other Republican candidates have started fighting back; Texas Gov. Rick Perry has filed suit calling the Virginia election statutes "among the most onerous in the nation." Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told Des Moines' WHO Radio this week that the Virginia system is "weighted toward the candidates who have the most money."