Stephen Hayes unloads on Newt Gingrich. “If we measure negativity by degree rather than quantity, he is responsible for the most egregious Republican-on-Republican attack of this cycle.” Read the whole thing.

Newt Gingrich tries to unring the bell. “Gingrich now regrets saying that Romney should return the money he made at Bain Capital because his work sometimes resulted in layoffs at companies. ‘I do regret taking a shot at Mitt,’ Gingrich told Iowa Public Television, according to Radio Iowa. ‘It also communicated something I don’t believe in. I think people who run those companies have an obligation to run the companies effectively and to do the best they can and I’ve said in the past, many times, that he’s a good manager.’ ” So his excuse is that he says things he doesn’t believe. Swell.

Congress undermines the “do nothing Congress” campaign theme for President Obama. “Optimism is growing that lawmakers will reach a deal in the next day or two on taxes and spending that would allow Congress to leave for the year this weekend. Senators in both parties said they are growing more confident that a deal to extend the payroll-tax holiday and fund the government in 2012 will soon be reached.” Maybe even the XL Pipeline will be in there.

Gingrich underestimated the negative impact of making himself visible. “Newt Gingrich has gone from surging to slipping. Under a barrage of negative TV ads and after weeks in the spotlight, Gingrich’s poll numbers have begun to recede in Iowa — a downward trajectory none of the previous 2012 GOP presidential front-runners were able to reverse once it started.”

He sort of undercut his claim to being a “respected spiritual leader.” “Jewish Week is apologizing for a controversial column about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow that said a Super Bowl victory by the Evangelical Christian QB could incite others to burn mosques, bash gays and banish immigrants.” Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, who wrote the column, also apologized to Tebow.

President Obama must unnerve even the most ardent Democrat. Max Boot writes: “I am pretty sure, however, that the president’s request [that] the Iranians return the drone was dopey and humiliating. Especially because there was no ‘or else’ appended to the demand. Predictably, the Iranians are making propaganda fodder out of the president’s request. . . .Who, I wonder, at the NSC and/or the State Department and Department of Defense thought it was a good idea to come crawling on our knees to the Iranians for the return of our spy drone.” Hadn’t he heard — Obama runs foreign policy!

Jackson Diehl underscores how twisted Obama’s view is of the “peace process.” He writes: “[Mahmoud] Abbas is simply unwilling to deal with [Bibi] Netanyahu, and his demands for Israeli concessions prior to talks — such as a settlement freeze in the West Bank and Jerusalem — are pretexts that have nothing to do with his real motives, or the real obstacles to peace. It follows that, almost regardless of concessions Netanyahu might make — such as his settlement-construction moratorium last year — Abbas will refuse to talk. So why do Obama and other senior administration officials continue to blame Netanyahu for the failure to begin negotiations?” Because they are hostile to Israel? Because they think they can bully the Jewish state? Inquiring minds want to know.

The governor does his part to unsettle the Gingrich campaign. “Republican Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad says he’s unsure presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has the discipline and focus to be president.”

Gingrich does have a tendency to appear unconnected from reality. “Newt Gingrich today denied that $300,000 he paid to resolve 1997 ethics charges was a fine, said it is offensive to compare the civil rights movement against segregation to same-sex marriage and on multiple occasions called himself a Washington outsider despite his previous decades in public office.” That was all in an editorial board meeting with the Des Moines Register. I’ll guess he’s not getting the nod.