Romney Campaign Begins To Unload On Gingrich

Mitt Romney's campaign seems have Newt Gingrich targeted.

With a debate coming on Saturday that promises to be the toughest, and perhaps most important, to date, and the Gingrich and Romney forces headed into a January that looks like a month long Battle Royale, the Romney campaign today began to pivot its attention toward Newt Gingrich in a way it hasn’t done so until now:

 Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign launched a coordinated assault Thursday on former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s leadership, temperament and commitment to a conservative agenda.

The Romney campaign deployed two top surrogates — former senator Jim Talent of Missouri, who served under Gingrich in the House, and former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who worked with Gingrich as a White House chief of staff — to accuse Gingrich of “self-aggrandizement.”

In a conference call with reporters, Talent and Sununu said that Gingrich’s comments earlier this year calling Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan “right-wing social engineering” were part of a pattern of statements over several decades that undercut the conservative agenda.

“The speaker’s running as a reliable and trusted conservative leader, and what we’re here to say with reluctance but clearly is that he’s not a reliable and trusted conservative leader because he’s not a reliable and trustworthy leader,” Talent said.

“Speaker Gingrich says interesting and insightful things,” Talent added. “He can explain them well on many occasions. He also says outrageous things that come from nowhere, and he has a tendency to say them at the exact time when they most undermine the conservative agenda.”

(…)

When asked by one reporter, Talent and Sununu declined to criticize Gingrich’s personal behavior. But both of them zeroed in on Gingrich’s criticism of Ryan’s plan in a “Meet the Press” interview on NBC News last spring.

“For Newt Gingrich, in an effort of self aggrandizement, to come out and throw a clever phrase that had no other purpose than to try to make him sound a little smarter than the conservative Republican leadership, to undercut Paul Ryan, is the most self-serving, anti-conservative thing one could imagine happening,” Sununu said Thursday. “He gave the liberals and the Democrats the ammunition they needed to moot, at least for the time being, Paul Ryan’s presentation.”

A few minutes later, in an interview on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown,” Sununu said: “I believe Newt Gingrich is a Gingrichite. All he cares about is Newt Gingrich.”

It’s a fairly stark indictment of Gingrich by the people who served with him in Congress and worked with him in Government. Of course, there are several questions that remain. One is whether things like this even matter to Republican voters at this point. As I’ve noted several times already, it’s not like the details of  Newt Gingrich’s past are news to anyone who pays even a modicum of attention to politics. For reasons that perhaps only they can explain, a sizable portion of Republican voters seem to be completely discounting that record, and rather than recognizing that Gingrich is the same kind of flip-flopper on issues supposedly of importance to conservatives that they accuse Romney of being, they are treating him like a hero. If that continues, this new surrogates attack isn’t necessarily going to hurt Gingrich in the race for the Republican nomination, although they are likely to be additional ammunition for Democrats and their surrogates in the event that Gingrich actually ends up winning the Republican nomination.

The other question is whether these surrogate attacks are a preview of what we’re likely to hear from Romney himself. As Chris Cillizza notes, at some point these attacks are going to lose whatever edge they have if the candidate doesn’t endorse them:

Having a surrogate launch such attacks isn’t as powerful as running an ad to that effect, and Sununu’s comments didn’t seem to be planned — his “off the cuff” remarks appeared to be genuinely off the cuff — but they still represents a pretty significant attack in a race that hasn’t seen all that much back and forth to date.

Romney will now be asked whether he agrees with Sununu that Gingrich doesn’t have the necessary restraint to be commander in chief and he’ll need to decide whether he backs up his surrogate or seeks to downplay the attack.

Regardless, Sununu’s comments represent a powerful opening salvo against Gingrich, and, if conservatives see the Romney campaign’s attacks on Gingrich as beyond the pale, there could be a rallying effect behind the former House Speaker.

At this point, of course, Romney’s team needs to try something to regain its position as the frontrunner in the race.

It’s a risky strategy, but Romney may have no other choice at this point. Gingrich doesn’t seem to be like the other candidates that have risen up to challenge Romney and, given the minimal amount of time between now and the kickoff event of the primary season on January 3rd, it’s looking less and less likely that he will implode on his own. At this point, Romney would seem to benefit from reminding voters of who Newt Gingrich really is and hoping that Gingrich’s relative lack of organization means that may not be able to capitalize on his currently high poll numbers. We’ll see the extent of this new Romney strategy on Saturday, when the candidates meet for the first to two pre-Holiday debates. Already, we’ve seen that Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman have no reluctance to foreswear from attacking Gingrich. Soon we’ll see if Romney himself decides to join in.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JohnMcC says:

    But – but – but….. don’t you see Mr Mataconis that the problem is that you get your news (or at least your quotes) from the Voice of the Potomac. Repub primary voters get their news from Fox. Which is to say that they are the least informed Americans possible. This has been documented.

    “A study by (Farleigh Dickinson University) has found that people who get their news from Fox are less informed than those who get their news elsewhere or don’t watch any news at all.”
    http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2011/11/are_fox_viewers_less_info.html

    Well, of course there are those who get their news from AM radio. Maybe those are the better informed Repubs?

  2. ponce says:

    I Romney can’t take out an easy target like Gingrich, there’s no way he can beat Obama.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @ponce: I(f) Romney can’t take out an easy target like Gingrich, there’s no way he can beat Obama.

    Amen. (I think) and I have not uttered that word since I last watched “Lilies of the Field” in ’83.

  4. superdestroyer says:

    who cares? Two idiots fighting over who gets to lose to President Obama in a rout. If Romney was the business analyst he claims to be, he would see that it is hopeless no only for Republicans but for any conservative party. Why not discuss who conservatives can survive in the coming one-party-state. Since moving is not an option, unlike conservatives living in California, there has to be new ways to survive in the coming one-party-state.

  5. de stijl says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Since moving is not an option, unlike conservatives living in California, there has to be new ways to survive in the coming one-party-state.

    I don’t have a ton of sympathy for people suffering from self-inflicted wounds.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    The GOP is not about issues. The GOP is about rage.

  7. superdestroyer says:

    @de stijl:

    How are bad public schools a “self-inflicted” wound? How is open borders and unlimited immigration a “self-inflicted” wound? How is a shrinking private sector a “self-inflicted” wound. How are having only 50% of the workers in the U.S. paying income taxes a “self-inflicted” wound?

    Conservatives are failures because so many politicians say that they are going to be conservative but almost none of them even bother to try.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I suggested you read liberal websites like TPM, Balloon Juice, or even Dailykos. Iusses are the last thing discussed. If conservatives are about rage then liberals are about snark. The problem is that is is very hard to lead when snark is the only response to any issue.

    Go to TPM and count the number of posts that complain about the irrelevant Republicans and then count the number of posts about liberal position on issues.

    If you read liberal blogs and websites, the liberal positions has been reduced to unlimited stimulus spending.

  9. DRS says:

    “Snark” is infinitely more entertaining to read than “rage”.

  10. Neil Hudelson says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Two of the sites you list–Balloon Juice and Daily Kos–are a mixed bag. I used to read Balloon Juice as a kind of cipher of center-left populist thought. I don’t think they have ever advertised themselves as a true policy blog, but some of the front pagers do indeed post much on policy thought. That said, much of the site has moved to squabbling and snark.

    Daily Kos–ahh yes, the boogey man of all conservatives. The thing about Daily Kos is that its an uncensored community. Meaning anyone can create an account and post. So yes, you are able to find posters who only squawk on about nothing important, but you also find quite a bit of good solid liberal thought on policies, positions, and current events. It’s all about what you cherry pick.

    Complete agreement on TPM. They are becoming the TMZ of politics.

  11. Hey Norm says:

    @ Destroyer…
    Let’s review your talking points, shall we:

    How are bad public schools a “self-inflicted” wound?

    I graduated from public schools, got a degree from a state college, and masters degree from a state university. I’ve been successful, by any metric you care to use, in two different careers. Public schools ain’t bad.
    Next talking point.

    How is open borders and unlimited immigration a “self-inflicted” wound?

    The borders are not open, and there is not unlimited immigration. This administration has commited more resources to border security than any previous, and they are deporting people in record numbers.
    Next talking point.

    “How is a shrinking private sector a “self-inflicted” wound?

    The private sector is growing and has added jobs for the last 21 months.
    Next talking point.

    How are having only 50% of the workers in the U.S. paying income taxes a “self-inflicted” wound?

    Actually the talking point you meant to use is that 47% of filers pay no federal income tax. That’s because they probably don’t work, or if they do. they don’t make very much money. THEY”RE F”ING POOR you dolt. Do you seriously think that making the poor, the sick, and the elderly pay taxes is the way out of our economic problems?
    Next talking point???

  12. James in LA says:

    @Hey Norm: “Next talking point??”

    Excellent evisceration of long-failed arguments.

  13. de stijl says:

    @superdestroyer:

    You missed my point entirely.

    The “conservative” party in California doomed themselves by deliberately alienating the fastest growing demographic groups.

    That is the self-inflicted wound I mentioned.

  14. superdestroyer says:

    @de stijl:

    There is no way for the Republicans to stay conservative and appeal to Hispanics. Hispanics are the second most liberal group in the U.S. behind blacks. It would be easier for Republicans to appeal to liberal Jews before appeal to large numbers of Hispanics.

    Conservatives were not the ones demanding open borders and unlimited immigration. It was the cheap labor, “compassion conservatives” who were idiots in their beliefs that they could ever appeal to Hispanics.