Yesterday, I predicted that the long knives would come out in Iowa for Newt Gingrich. However, I didn’t think it would happen so soon or that it would be so effective or that some of the knives would come from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.). But they did, and the result is the most devastating ad of the primary season so far.
Gulp. Right now it’s just a Web ad, but soon, I suspect, it will be on plenty of free media and that it, or some variation, will also appear on the airwaves. An Iowa Republican operative e-mailed me: “Paul is the most likely beneficiary of a number of Newt’s supporters should Newt implode. Smart to keep up the heat.” Actually, a Newt meltdown would benefit just about everyone in the field, especially staunch conservatives Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rick Santorum.
The ad is so effective because it all comes right from Gingrich’s mouth, which is the source of so many self-inflicted injuries. It also may be the most surgical insertion of conservative stars (Rush Limbaugh, Larry Kudlow) in any ad in recent memory. What can Gingrich say in response? There really isn’t any comeback because it is an accurate accounting of what Gingrich has done and said. The best ads are the one that get the facts right, and this one does.
Moreover, there is more, I am certain, where that came from. Take Gingrich’s stance on abortion, for example.
The Des Moines Register has a handy guide. The two most difficult items for him to defend are ones on public funding of abortion and partial-birth abortion:
The New York Times on April 10, 1995, reported, “House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Sunday supported the availability of federally financed abortions for poor women who are victims of rape or incest and expressed opposition to organized school prayer, positions that are at odds with many conservatives in his party.” . . . .
Later that year, Gingrich urged his colleagues in the U.S. House to accept language in an abortion bill that would not completely ban abortions under federal employee health plans, leaving in place exemptions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, the Washington Times reported on Aug. 7, 1995. . . .
Gingrich helped quash an effort to deny Republican Party funds to candidates who opposed legislation outlawing so-called partial birth abortions, a Jan. 21, 1998, article by the Associated Press said.
The Republican National Committee at its winter meeting that year wanted to deny party campaign funds to Republican candidates who opposed banning most late-term, or partial-birth, abortions.
Gingrich addressed the RNC meeting on Jan. 16, 1998, calling for tolerance of candidates who support partial-birth abortion, saying he would campaign for them: “It’s the voters of America who have a right — in some places they’re going to pick people who are to my right, some places they’re going to pick people who are to my left and in both cases, if they’re the Republican nominee, I am going to actively campaign for them, because when they get to Congress, whether they are a moderate Republican from the northeast, whether they are a very conservative Republican from the south or west, whatever their background.”
These are damaging because the issues aren’t even hard ones. Many Americans who agree to some type of legalized abortion nevertheless oppose public funding and partial-birth abortion. But this is typical Gingrich, always ready to negotiate out from under the conservatives. And it’s the stuff ready-made for an ad from a superPAC or campaign.
The Ron Paul ad will no doubt begin a serious debate within the electorate and media about whether Gingrich is really the anti-Romney or someone even more problematic, more laden with baggage and more risky in the general election. After tolerating, if not encouraging Gingrich, conservative media may have now begun to take a serious look at the candidate with arguably more serious flaws than anyone in the GOP presidential race. It’s about time.