Well, we saw this a mile away. In less than a day, the Newt Gingrich attack on capitalism has failed miserably to elevate Gingrich or to make Mitt Romney a less-desirable nominee. The reaction is nearly uniform.
Rush Limbaugh, the uber-Romney critic, pronounced himself “uncomfortable” with Gingrich using the rhetoric of the left. Politico reports that Gingrich managed to rally the conservative blogosphere — around Romney. “Conservative bloggers who are often critical of Mitt Romney were rallying to his aid Monday, arguing that criticisms of his time at Bain Capital are ineffective and out-of-bounds for those who value the free market.”
Michelle Malkin, no Romney fan and as hard-line as any conservative, wrote of both Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who picked up the anti-Bain mantra): “Instead of focusing on his long political record of expedience, incompetent non-Romneys have morphed into Michael Moore propagandists — throwing not just Bain Capital under the bus, but wealth creators of all kinds who take risks in the private marketplace.”
It was the same story on Twitter, where David Limbaugh (“What IS a plus on Romney’s scorecard — his record as a successful businessman — is now being demonized by our side & I oppose it.”) and the American Enterprise Institute’s Jim Pethokoukis (“Sorry, Newt, Romney doesn’t need to apologize for his Bain career”) railed repeatedly at Gingrich and Perry for attacking capitalism from the left.
A longtime GOP campaign operative and Romney supporter told me, “Newt’s just dynamiting bridges behind him on the way out of town now. The entire party from top to bottom sees it. Everyone knew he was volatile, but using a Michael Moore hit-job on capitalism just confirmed it.”
Several questions remain. First, given the rotten reception that the trailer for an anti-Romney, Gingrich super PAC-sponsored film has gotten, will the full film actually air? Second, if Gingrich does poorly in New Hampshire Tuesday and continues his slide in South Carolina, will his rich backers pull the plug on him? And finally, will Romney benefit in the controversy over the Bain attack or will this be an opening for Rick Santorum, who hasn’t adopted the MoveOn.org rhetoric but does present a more blue-collar friendly image and agenda?
The most amusing part of this entire episode is how obvious the reaction would be, except to the left-wing pundits who giggled and began quoting Gingrich as a conservative oracle and to the Republican operatives who cooked this up, imaging the attack would be a grand success rather than a blot on the filmmakers’ careers. When confronted with a bizarre series of choices in which people are behaving irrationally, there are two choices: Assume a devilishly clever plot or conclude that there are a bunch of dimwits at work. If you choose the latter, you’ll be right more often than not.
UPDATE (5:13 p.m.): There were two more crushing developments for Gingrich. The Club for Growth, the touchstone of fiscal conservatism and no cheerleader for Romney, issued a blistering statement: “Newt Gingrich’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital are disgusting.There are a number of issues for Mitt Romney’s Republican opponents to attack him for, but attacking him for making investments in companies to create a profit for his investors is just wrong. Because of the efforts of Bain Capital, major companies like Staples, Domino’s Pizza, and the Sports Authority now employ thousands of people and have created billions in wealth in the private economy. Attacking Governor Romney for participating in free-market capitalism is just beyond the pale for any purported ‘Reagan Conservative.’ Newt Gingrich should stop his attacks on free markets and apologize to Governor Romney for them.”
Moreover, Rick Santorum played this perfectly, distinguishing himself from Gingrich and his cohorts . The Post reports on his reaction to the anti-Bin attacks: “‘We try to hire good people, we try to keep them employed. If someone if obviously not performing their duty and their mission, obviously a business has a responsibility for the greater good of the business and the other employees to make sure that everybody there is pulling their weight,’ Santorum said. Asked whether Romney’s corporate takeover experience at Bain Capital would be a liability, Santorum said: ‘I’m not making it a liability. I believe in the private sector.’” Good for him. He may indeed be the beneficiary of this ludicrously wrong-headed Gingrich stunt.