In the past week, Newt Gingrich has unleashed a torrent of televised attacks on Mitt Romney. The anti-Romney spots mark the final abandonment--whether Gingrich cares to admit it or not--of the former House Speaker's vow to limit his attacks against Romney to the putatively more civil realm of "drawing contrasts" between the two candidates. The shift began near the end of Gingrich's campaign swing in Iowa, gathered momentum as he criss-crossed New Hampshire and is now reached its apotheosis in South Carolina.
The Gingrich campaign released a video Wednesday that listed 10 "Romney gaffes"--a release that takes some of Romney's words out of context. That tactic disregard's Gingrich's public call for any misleading campaign material released in his name to be immediately removed. The first clip shows Romney saying, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," a snippet from a speech he gave on Jan. 9 in New Hampshire to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce. The clip released by Gingrich omits the context of the remark. Romney was referring to having the freedom, as a consumer of health insurance, to choose health insurance companies; he was using the term "fire" as a euphemism for no longer using companies that offer bad service.
"You know," Romney went on to say in his Nashua speech, "if someone doesn't give me a good service that I need, I want to say I'm going to go get someone else to provide that service to me."
Gingrich's video also knocks Romney on issues of personal character, attacking him for strapping the family dog the roof of his car during a 12-hour drive to Canada; making the now-famous "$10,000 bet" with Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the debate stage in Iowa; and for the time he awkwardly sang part of the chorus of "Who Let the Dogs Out?" during a photo-op with black teenagers in 2008.
"Imagine what Obama would do with a candidate like that," the ad reads at the end. "Only Newt Gingrich can win the debates against Barack Obama. Mitt Romney can't."
Prior to releasing the "gaffe" video, the Gingrich campaign announced a TV ad that will run in South Carolina that hits Romney on his abortion record. "What happened after Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney changed his position from pro-abortion to pro-life?" the narrator says in the video. "He governed pro-abortion."
"He can't be trusted," the voice says to close the ad.
On Thursday, Gingrich unveiled a new fundraising website, RomneyTaxes.com, which points to more than $700 million in fees Romney instituted as governor of Massachusetts to close the state's budget gap, and urges supporters to "donate before Mitt taxes it."
But the line of attack receiving the most pushback from other Republicans is Gingrich's effort to call Romney's business record into question. Gingrich hammers Romney for business decisions he made during his tenure with a private equity firm--at the same time that a super PAC called "Winning Our Future," run by former Gingrich staffers, is set to release a 28-minute feature that tells stories of jobs lost under Bain's leadership.
Free-market groups, including the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity, have called on Gingrich to soften his rhetoric. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, fellow presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele have also rebuked the candidate's anti-equity fund strategy. "What the hell are you doing, Newt?" Rudy Giuliani asked Thursday during an apperance on Fox News.
In response to a Politico report Wednesday that Gingrich was backing away from the Bain attacks during a conversation with a supporter in Spartanburg, Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond called the characterization "misleading."
"This issue at hand is neither about Bain Capital, private equity firms, nor about capitalism," Hammond said in a statement. "It is about Mitt Romney's judgment and character. It was Governor Romney's decision to base his candidacy, in large part, on his background as a portfolio manager."
The string of attacks is retaliation from the Gingrich camp against Romney and his surrogates for the torrent of negative ads that torpedoed Gingrich's candidacy in Iowa, where he finished a distant fourth.
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