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“In the tradition of Lucille Ball,” Newt Gingrich said in a visit to an Algona, Iowa, chocolate factory, before dipping a stick in a vat and taking care not to spill the gooey contents before the cameras.

These type of photo ops are par for the course in the waning days of the Iowa caucus, but Gingrich was there to prove a point: He’s not the “zany” candidate that Mitt Romney says he is. On Tuesday, Romney said of the Gingrich campaign’s failure to make the ballot in Virginia, ”It’s more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory. I mean…you got to get it organized.”

Gingrich actually used the campaign stop to challenge Romney to a one-on-one debate, but then staged the confection making as if to actually reenact the classic scene from “I Love Lucy.” “Now I feel the pressure,” Gingrich said as a worker in the shop instructed him on what to do.

“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,” Gingrich said.

Romney is trying to reinforce the electability argument, and by invoking a legendary comic moment, endlessly rerun almost 60 years since it first aired, he’s trying to add a dose of pop culture to what would otherwise be a standard line of attack on Gingrich. He’s already called Gingrich “zany,” so comparing him to the most popular “zany” redhead in TV history is just another way to ensure that the line gets picked up.

Gingrich compared his exclusion from the Virginia ballot to Pearl Harbor, but today he blamed a worker who turned in fraudulent signatures. That sounds suspiciously like a scheme that may have been hatched by a certain zany redhead.