OTTUMWA, Iowa -- Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich continued to try to force a backlash against rival Mitt Romney over negative television ads that an independent PAC supporting Romney is flooding into the airwaves across Iowa.
With two weeks to go until the crucial Iowa caucuses, Gingrich called upon Romney to state publicly that the super PAC, Restore Our Future, should stop running the negative television ads. He called Romney’s claim that he’s not legally allowed to communicate to the PAC a “dodge” -- and he said he would “disown” the organizers of his own super PAC, Winning Our Future, if it runs negative ads.
“I have a simple challenge for Governor Romney,” Gingrich said at an appearance at a snow-removal equipment maker on the outskirts of Ottumwa. “This PAC was created by his former staff and funded by his personal friends. If he wants to stop it, he can say it publicly.”
“I don’t object to being outspent,” Gingrich added. “I object to lies. I object to negative smear campaigns. And I object to things that the candidate himself refuses to support.”
Gingrich made clear that he is hoping for a backlash among Iowa voters against not just Romney but all the candidates who are running ads critical of him. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, also from Texas, are both running such ads in Iowa. Gingrich acknowledged that the ads may be working -- new polling data this week shows his status as frontrunner has been sliding.
In these final weeks of campaigning, Gingrich is embracing a strategy, he said, of fighting the fire with a strictly “positive” message that will turn voters against those responsible for the critical ads.
“Unanswered negative ads work in the short run unless they bounce back and discredit the people who are running them,” Gingrich said. “And you now understand my entire strategy for the next two weeks. The state of Iowa must choose between the negative and somebody who wants to be positive.”
Gingrich was referring to a widely reported interview with Romney on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program in which Romney said that super PACS are a “disaster” that have “made a mockery of our political campaign season.”
But asked to condemn the negative ads being run by Restore Our Future, Romney said he might land in the “big house” if he broke campaign-finance law by trying to communicate directly to the independent PAC.
Gingrich called the press conference almost exclusively to take on Romney, calling Romney’s claims about super PACS and negative ads to be “palpably misleading,” “clearly false” and “politics in its worst form.”
“We ought to understand it’s baloney,” Gingrich said. “We ought to understand it’s his people running his ads doing his dirty work where he pretends to be above it.”
This story has been updated.