I Still Like Newt....And the more time goes by there seems to be some skeletons in Romney's closet as well....
Romney campaign unloads on 'outrageous and destructive' Newt Gingrich
There is now polling indicating a possible Newt Gingrich surge after Monday night's debate - A Rasmussen tracking survey has him just three points behind Mitt Romney. Notably, Rick Santorum may need to start wearing a lifebelt rather than a sweater vest - he appears to be sinking fast.
But the surest sign that the Romney campaign considers Gingrich the main threat here in South Carolina was a conference call just now in which top surrogates for the GOP frontrunner unloaded on the former House Speaker. It was quickly followed by web ad featuring Talent slamming Gingrich as an "Unreliable Leader" (also the title of the conference call).
The charges against Gingrich were delivered by ex-Senator Jim Talent and Representative Susan Molinari, who both served under him as House Speaker, and were pretty personal (though they didn't go there over Gingrich's his three wives and marital infidelitites).
Talent said: "He's been running as a reliable conservative leader who can represent our movement and our party. And he's not that. Because he's not reliable. Yes, he can say exciting things. He also says things which undermine the conservative movement and he says it in outrageous and destructive ways."
He highlighted Gingrich's derisive comments about the Paul Ryan budget and his 2006 opposition to the Iraq surge as instances of his departing from conservative orthodoxy, saying that Ryan "got a taste of what we lived with in the 1990s" when House members were always "going home and having to clean up after our Speaker".
Talent added: "The Speaker sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi at a time when we were engaged in a struggle to stop cap and trade. He lent credibility to that legislation and indeed to Al Gore's whole environmental agenda.
"And now in the last month, after promising he was going to remain positive, he turned around and backed Bain Capital in a way that he himself has admitted was factually inaccurate. But worse than that he used the language and the logic that the Left uses in attacking the free enterprise system, which had the impact of undermining the whole agenda.
Molinari said of Gingrich that "I can only describe his style as leadership by chaos" and "we really have seen this inability when Newt Gingrich is the focus to put the focus on anyone else", arguing that the focus needs to be President Barack Obama's record.
She said, slightly clumsily, that "if he were to become the party nominee and the longer he stays in this primary the focus is always Newt and when the focus is Newt the Republican party loses - we do not want Speaker Gingrich help re-elect another Democrat president".
The reference to the length of time Gingrich stays in the primary is interesting. In questions, Molinari denied calling for Gingrich to drop out but her earlier words indicate that the Romney campaign is worried about the long-term damage he could inflict.
All in all, this strikes me as a minor victory (he still has a mountain to climb in South Carolina, never mind the overall primary race) for Gingrich. Yesterday, he made the case that anti-Romney conservatives should coalesce behin him. Today, Team Romney aided him in doing this by presenting them as their main rival.
As I said, there were no mention of Gingrich's tempestuous personal life. But towards the end Talent did highlight "the incident on the couch with Nancy Pelosi". I hope he wasn't suggesting that anything that took place off-camera.
January 18, 2012