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Right Turn
Posted at 03:47 PM ET, 12/21/2011

Ad wars in Iowa

Mitt Romney is out with a new ad entitled, “Character”:

Well, it’s not very subtle. And in a way it’s the ultimate negative ad: Romney has his (only) wife talking about character while his principal opponent is being buried under an avalanche of unfavorable paid and earned media, lambasting his lack of character. That it comes at the same time as Newt and Callista Gingrich’s somewhat awkward (maybe “our family” wasn’t the best choice of words) holiday ad, with the two of them waxing poetically about Christmas and America, only highlights the contrast. (Yes, he does look old enough to be her father.)

Now, can you imagine Callista reading Ann Romney’s script for her husband? It’s hysterically implausible, precisely because his character deficit is so deep, and she’s not exactly an ideal character witness.

Romney’s ad doesn’t necessarily compel voters to vote for him, although from his perspective that’s certainly desirable. Rather, it is to put front and center the elephant in the room. The Gingriches aren’t going to get the pachyderm out of there by whining or by running saccharine Christmas ads.

In fact it’s hard to see what would be an effective strategy for Gingrich. A Republican operative not involved in the campaign e-mailed me this morning regarding Gingrich: “No organization, no money, no message.” That’s deadly accurate.

Take his “organization” for example. Huffington Post’s Jon Ward reports: “Gingrich’s struggles to even qualify in Virginia is one example of why even if he overcomes his lack of organization in Iowa — where enthusiasm can sometimes make up for a lack of manpower and planning — he still faces an enormous hurdle to winning the Republican nomination. He is woefully unprepared for a long and arduous primary season that is expected to become a drawn-out battle for delegates unless Romney somehow wraps up the nomination early. This is all assuming that Gingrich makes the 20 or so deadlines still looming to get his name on primary ballots around the country.” His “long-term strategy” advisor is Gordon James, who worked for Bush 41 and has never run a presidential campaign.

On the money front, it’s unclear how much Gingrich has on hand and whether he’s been able to bring in cash during a time when his polls are sinking. What we do know is that in Iowa he’s been badly outspent.

Finally, it’s hard to tell what Gingrich’s message is these days. Mostly, he’s been on defense, lamely decrying the negative ads but offering no factual rebuttals. Meanwhile, Romney is on the offense (both against Gingrich and in sketching the contrast between an “opportunity society’ and an “entitlement society”); Texas Gov. Rick Perry is playing his evangelical card and has also brought in his (only wife) to campaign with him; Rick Santorum is picking up endorsements; Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is getting the star treatment on her 99-county tour; and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) is firing up the anti-Gingrich ads and enjoying relative calm until the media and ad deluge hits him on his own considerable defects. If Gingrich is to turn the tide, he better think of something other than Christmas greetings — and fast.

By  |  03:47 PM ET, 12/21/2011

Categories:  2012 campaign

 
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