A Mitt Romney-Ron Paul-Rick Santorum finish as the top three vote-getters in tomorrow’s Iowa Republican caucuses may spell trouble for Romney in the fall, should he become the GOP’s presidential nominee. There’s a name missing among the trio, and its owner could become the source of future trouble down the road: Newt Gingrich.
By many accounts, the former Massachusetts governor is up in Iowa because his attacking forces have taken Gingrich down. Gingrich can't be a happy camper.
Gingrich’s fall from double-digit front-runner to the ranks of the also-rans with Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann can be traced to the barrage of negative ads launched against the former House speaker by the pro-Romney PAC Restore Our Future. The Christian Science Monitor, citing a study by the Campaign Media Analysis Group in Washington, reported that nearly half of the negative adsin Iowa last month were directed at Gingrich. Referring to “swift boat” attacks against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004, Gingrich told a group of reporters, “I feel Romney-boated.”
As well he should.
The ads hammered his character to the extent that 23 percent of Iowans polled in the latest Des Moines Register survey say Gingrich is the candidate they like least, placing him ahead of Paul and Bachmann.
Restore Our Future, however, is not the only anti-Gingrich force that has come into play since Gingrich’s resurgence from the near-collapse of his campaign last summer to his Republican front-runner status in November. Since then, the Republican establishment, former GOP colleagues in the House and pillars in the conservative commentariat have drubbed Gingrich mercilessly. Criticism coming from those who know him best, and that has to hurt. And, when it comes to Gingrich, probably enrage.
Only a few weeks ago in Iowa, Gingrich was flatly asserting, “I’m going to be the nominee.” Now he’s just trying to survive. Newt Gingrich is not going to go quietly. Neither is he likely to kiss and makeup in the spring with those who were out to destroy his candidacy in the winter.
Gingrich, if I’m guessing correctly, is going to make them pay. And what better way than where and when it counts: at the polls on Election Day.
Mitt Romney should enjoy Tuesday night and the coming weeks in New Hampshire. And get braced for the Midnight Train From Georgia. It’s smoking.