Texas Gov. Rick Perry is out with a new ad:
His ads have certainly improved, and he is homing in on a key problem for Newt Gingrich: If conservatives think Mitt Romney isn’t conservative enough, is Gingrich any better?
In fact, it does seem to be “engage Gingrich” day. Mitt Romney’s campaign has decided to get off the bench. His team put on a press call with two surrogates, former governor John Sununu and Sen. Jim Talent. (“Paul Ryan was completely blindsided and that’s why he said, “Look, with allies like this, you know, who needs the enemies on the left?” So then how did the speaker respond when he was criticized for those comments? He reaffirmed them first in the interview, then he called up Paul Ryan to apologize and then months later he said he hadn’t attacked Paul Ryan (in fact, he had) and then, a few days after that, he reaffirmed the basis of the attacks on a press call to discuss Gingrich’s attack on Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.”)
They put out their favorite “Gingrich cut the legs out from under Ryan” quotes. And Sununu also went on “Chuck Todd’s Daily Rundown” on MSNBC to skewer Gingrich: “Paul Ryan is the conservative Republican, a conservative Republican leader in the house. He worked with the Republican leadership there. He put a plan together to deal with the deficit and resolve some of the conflicts and problems we have with the entitlements. It was the plan that Republicans were counting on in this legislative session, and frankly in an effort to promote himself and to sound a little bit more clever than his Republican friends, Newt Gingrich threw him under the bus with his phrase about it was conservative social engineering. That’s what people are upset at Newt Gingrich about. It’s not personal; it’s about the way he deals with issues in a way that is more about him than about the principle behind the issues.”
And if that were not enough, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was sent to Iowa with the unsubtle line: “When you look at these extraordinary candidates, say, ‘Is this the kind of person that is always going to make me proud in the Oval Office — and I never have to worry whether they’ll embarrass America, that I never have to worry will do something that will make me ashamed.”
I spoke to a Republican strategist who’s neutral in the race but understands the concerns about Gingrich in GOP circles. He said in a phone call, “There are a lot of pits in a lot of stomachs.”
Part of that comes from the fear that there's yet more issues we don’t even know about. In an ABC interview last week, Gingrich only heightened concerns when Jake Tapper asked if there were more skeletons in his closet. Gingrich answered: “Not that I know of. I mean, again, given the nature of the modern world, whatever is there I’m sure will come out in the end. But to the best of my knowledge people know an immense amount about me. Probably more than any candidate who is running. I think people have dealt with and thought through whether or not they could support me.” Not that I know of?
And certainly part of the concern stems from what the GOP strategist described as Gingrich’s penchant for “shooting from the hip,” as Gingrich did when he impulsively began to speak of eight years and jumped at the opportunity to do the Donald Trump debate (which has been criticized by the Republican National Committee chairman). “It’s a problem in the campaign because it is a problem in the Oval Office,” he said of Gingrich’s lack of verbal discipline.
There is also an uneasiness that his denials about aspects of his past problems simply won’t play. For example, former senator John E. Sununu (who, unlike, his father has not endorsed any candidate) recently penned an op-ed in which he scoffed at Gingrich’s assertion that he never lobbied:
In 2005, I introduced legislation with Senator Chuck Hagel to significantly strengthen the regulatory oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We proposed to raise capital standards, limit the firms’ entry into new business areas, and scale back their large and risky investment portfolios. It came as no surprise that they immediately unleashed a well-paid army to oppose the bill. It was surprising, however, to learn Newt was among them.
Dealing with this awkward revelation at a recent debate in Michigan, Newt claimed that he told Freddie Mac executives that their approach to housing finance was “insane.’’ Seriously? Freddie wasn’t paying anyone at that particular moment to recommend changes to its business model. They had plenty of people like me doing it for free. And they didn’t want to hear it. Newt was paid, like any other consultant, to say what his client wanted him to say - in this case, “to develop an argument,’’ as Bloomberg put it, “on behalf of the company’s public-private structure.’’ We’ll be paying for the mess for a long time.
This presents a bit of a credibility problem for a self-described conservative like Gingrich — an issue compounded by his work for ethanol companies as well. In Iowa, at least, that could count as a positive; for those opposed to corporate subsidies, not so much.
And to top it off, it seems that Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign is buying more time on Fox in Iowa to show its “Serial hypocrisy” ad.
A Republican operative who is skeptical about Gingrich’s viability says the Gingrich opponents don’t necessarily need to pull an upset in Iowa, they just need to “bog him down.” Three more weeks of what we saw today might fit that description.