Newt Gingrich participates in a debate Monday with fellow GOP presidential… (Brian Snyder / Reuters )
Remember when all Mitt Romney’s campaign thought all it had to do was worry about President Obama?
That’s so first week of December. Now that Obama-centric strategy has been banished to the same attic that houses Michele Bachmann’s Newsweek cover, Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, and Gary Johnson.
Team Romney is slamming Newt Gingrich, the new front-runner, with every breath it takes. The barrage began anew Tuesday, with the campaign sending out a new mailer hitting Gingrich once more on his work for Freddie Mac. And the Romney e-blast arrived adorned with a new header: “Unreliable Leader” and a picture of Gingrich beside his old pal, Nancy Pelosi.
The campaign renewed its call for Gingrich to disgorge the reported $1.6 million in fees he received as a consultant to the mortgage giant. It also accuses Gingrich of being less than forthcoming about his role with Freddie. Gingrich has said he was a “historian” giving advice to Freddie about the risks of its business model. But media reports by Bloomberg News and others suggest that Gingrich was recruited to help keep that model intact by ginning up support from Republicans.
Meanwhile, Gingrich’s campaign continues, at least in terms of its official statements, to appear as though it’s taking the high road. On Tuesday, his campaign released a letter written by the former House speaker to supporters, insisting that he will run a positive campaign and asking them to do the same.
How does that square with Gingrich just a day ago in New Hampshire firebombing Romney by telling reporters that Bain Capital, the firm Romney used to run, destroyed jobs instead of creating them? Worry not. Gingrich has rationalized it.
“I have refrained from launching attacks on my Republican opponents, though I have reserved the right to respond when my record has been distorted,” Gingrich wrote. “On Monday this occurred when Governor Romney and I engaged in what in diplomatic circles is called 'a frank exchange' over our respective records in the private sector.”
So to Gingrich, the critical distinction seems to be which side shoots first. But he warns in the letter that a cease-fire is the only way he or Romney -- or any other GOP contender -- can maintain enough viability to beat President Obama next fall. (Although, a bloody, pitched fight with Hillary Clinton four years ago didn’t seem to do Obama any harm in his fight against John McCain)
“We will run a positive campaign focused on our country’s future. We will not be running any negative advertising. With Ronald Reagan’s eleventh commandment in mind, we will ask our supporters not to contribute to any so-called SuperPAC that runs negative ads against any other Republican contender and we will discourage ad hominem attacks on our fellow Republicans,” Gingrich wrote.
“Therefore, I am instructing all members of my campaign staff and respectfully urge anyone acting as a surrogate for our campaign to avoid initiating attacks on other Republican candidates. It is my hope that my Republican opponents will join me in this commitment. Running a positive solutions-based campaign is the only way to guarantee President Obama is not reelected.”
Is this Newt, the wise old Republican owl, sounding the alarm on the dangers of an extended primary fight? Or is it a canny politician with a U-Store-It full of baggage requesting leniency at the time most crucial to his election prospects?
You be the judge. But as the days and weeks roll forward, keep Gingrich’s pledge in mind. If there is ever a thing in political circles known as a “clip and save,” this is it.