By CHARLES BABINGTON
COVINGTON, La. (AP) — Newt Gingrich demanded Friday that Mitt Romney stop the barrage of TV attack ads that badly damage him and Rick Santorum each time they seemed poised to make big strides in the GOP presidential race.
Admitting to Louisiana voters that he can't match Romney and a pro-Romney super PAC in fundraising, Gingrich repeated a plea that thus far the front-running Romney has ignored.
"I challenge Gov. Romney and his super PAC to pledge to take every negative ad about every Republican off the air, because it dishonors them, it weakens the Republican Party, and it helps Barack Obama," Gingrich told a cheering outdoor crowd of more than 200 in Covington.
Romney has said he doesn't control the super PAC, Restore Our Future, which has aired most of the hard-hitting ads.
Gingrich is struggling to stay in the race, and friends say his anger over the attack ads that hammered him in Iowa and Florida is a key reason he refuses to step aside. Gingrich said he hopes to do well in Louisiana's March 24 primary in part because he attended graduate school at Tulane, in New Orleans.
The former House speaker asked supporters for donations as small as $2.50, which he said can lead to bigger amounts. He says gasoline will cost $2.50 a gallon if he becomes president. Gingrich said he is gaining 500 to 1,000 new donors a day, but most give small sums.
In Gingrich's two Louisiana speeches Friday -- sandwiched around a quiet visit to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans -- he aimed most of his fire at Obama. He said the president refuses to tap domestic sources of oil and gas that could drive down energy prices.
Emboldened by chants of "Newt, Newt," Gingrich heaped more scorn on Obama than usual. "He got the Nobel Peace Prize for getting through his inaugural address," Gingrich said. He said Obama wants "to be president of the planet."
In Covington, where he campaigned before a big statue of President Ronald Reagan, Gingrich showed no sign of dropping from the GOP race.
"We need your help for the next week," he said. "And then we need your help all the way through November. And then when we win the presidency, we need your help every day to go and remind the Congress what we together are going to get done."