Newt Gingrich gets mad
By GINGER GIBSON | 1/26/12 5:03 PM EST
MOUNT DORA, Fla. — Newt Gingrich is hopping mad. And he’s not going to take it.
Under siege from Mitt Romney and conservative elites who seem to be conspiring against his candidacy, Gingrich abandoned his stump speech on Thursday in favor of an angry tirade against his most daunting Republican rival and the Washington establishment. He isn’t the candidate who vowed to stay positive in Iowa, or the nose-to-the-grindstone guy he was in South Carolina.
s he took the stage before a tea-party crowd here, Gingrich seethed at Romney for the avalanche of negative ads blanketing the Florida airwaves and bashed the Beltway denizens for coalescing to obstruct his rise.
“There’s the Washington establishment sitting around in a frenzy, having coffee, lunch and cocktail hour talking about, ‘How do we stop Gingrich?’ ” he said, referring to a spate of prominent Republicans who painted him Thursday in as a philandering egomaniac comparable to Bill Clinton and not as close to Ronald Reagan as he would like to think.
The former House speaker told the tea-party crowd that they shouldn’t be confused by the attacks coming from the right as it’s still part of the scared establishment.
“Remember the Republican establishment is just as much as an establishment as the Democratic establishment, and they are just as determined to stop us,” he said.
The former speaker may have gotten worked up in Iowa, after his chances to win there were dashed when Romney and his super PAC trashed his record. His weapon of revenge was painting Romney as a corporate raider and tying him to Bain Capital, a tactic that won him plaudits among Democrats but terrified Republicans and forced him to tone down his rhetoric. The anger also distracted Gingrich from delivering a coherent message and threw him off his game.
On Thursday, Gingrich went off on Romney for his negative ads, some of which are being aired by his own campaign and some by his super PAC. The ads depict Gingrich as misrepresenting his consulting work for mortgage broker Freddie Mac, which Romney says was really lobbying. They show him sitting on a couch with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and cite her statements about whether she knows about a bombshell in his former ethics case.
“This is the desperate last stand of the old order throwing the kitchen sink, hoping something sticks because if only they can drown us in enough mud, raised with money from companies and people who foreclosed on Floridians,” Gingrich said as he pounded on the podium. “Let’s be really clear, you’re watching ads paid for with the money taken from the people of Florida by companies like Goldman Sachs, recycled back into ads to try to stop you from having a choice in this election.”
Gingrich is referring to the fact, he says, that Romney owns stock in Goldman Sachs, which he claims is partially responsible for the mortgage crisis in Florida.
From there, Gingrich launched into a diatribe: Mitt Romney, backed by big banks that take people’s homes, thinks the voters of Florida are stupid.
“And [Romney] says, `You know, I don’t want to go back to the Reagan-Bush years. I was an independent then,’ ” Gingrich said, referring to Romney’s remarks during his 1994 Senate campaign. “He won’t tell you that now because he is counting on us not having YouTube. That’s how much he thinks we’re stupid, and we’re not stupid. The message we should give Mitt Romney is you know, ‘We aren’t that stupid and you aren’t that clever.’”
Gingrich’s tone has changed markedly even from the past week, when the ex-lawmaker was smiling and responding to questions about the new onslaught from the Romney camp.
Listen “I love them, don’t you love these guys?” Gingrich said sarcastically with a smile on Wednesday when asked about Romney surrogates attacking him.
There were no smiles by Thursday.
“There is something so grotesquely hypocritical about the Romney campaign that I think it’s just going to melt down over the next 6 or 8 weeks as the American people learn more about him,” he told reporters after the tea party rally.
In Iowa, Gingrich largely took it on the chin when Romney unleashed his wave of attack ads that ultimately sank the former speaker’s chances there. He did little in return. Gingrich’s answer to in Iowa was to hold tele-town hall calls, where he took questions from callers but had little ability to measure their response or drive his message home.
He spent days stumping in Iowa with no clear message. His anger at Romney bubbled over the night of the caucuses, when he placed fourth, and gave a bitter post-result speech to an empty ballroom. It spilled over into a withering attack on Romney’s time at Bain Capital in New Hampshire, but Gingrich backed down — mostly — from that offensive in South Carolina in favor of retail politicking.
The first three days in Florida, Gingrich’s stump speech remained largely the same while Romney stepped up his attacks.
But the Romney camp has been egging him on, sending surrogates, mostly U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, to every Gingrich campaign stop. Mack stands in the back next to reporters, offering his own criticism and response to the speech in real-time.
The presence of Romney supporters at his events hasn’t gone unnoticed by Gingrich or his campaign.
At a rally in Jacksonville, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond tried to bait a tea-party supporter with a camera to ask Mack why he had “sold out to the establishment.”
“I’d be delighted for Romney to personally come to one of my events,” Gingrich told reporters when asked about the presence of surrogates. “If you notice, he does all of his work – everything which is negative, he does by hiring people. He’s used the idea of hiring people, almost as much as he’s used to the idea of firing people.”