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Newt Gingrich reminds staff and surrogates: Do not go negative in the primaries

Chris Moody
The Ticket

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Romney and Gingrich (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Early in the campaign, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declined several opportunities to attack his Republican opponents--and despite a week of back-and-forth with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, he sent a letter to his staff Tuesday reminding them to stay positive.

"It is critical the Republican nominee emerge from this primary campaign un-bloodied, so that he or she can make the case against President Obama from a position of strength," Gingrich wrote in the letter, which went out both to campaign staff and  supporters."For these reasons I have refrained from launching attacks on my Republican opponents, though I have reserved the right to respond when my record has been distorted. . . . I also want to reiterate to each of you what I have said from the beginning of our campaign, and most recently last Saturday in Iowa: We will run a positive campaign focused on our country's future. We will not be running any negative advertising."

Recently, Romney's campaign launched an attack-ad offensive against Gingrich since the former House speaker began rising in polls. The two traded barbs this week over topics relating to how they earned their personal wealth. Romney's team knocked Gingrich for accepting more than $1 million in consulting fees from government-backed mortgage giant Freddie Mac and Gingrich responded by criticizing Romney's tenure at Bain Capital, a private-equity fund he co-founded.

Echoing Romney's Freddie Mac criticism, when conservative radio host Michael Savage offered Gingrich $1 million to drop out of the race, Romney press secretary Andrea Saul tweeted: "[I]f @newtgingrich doesn't take you up on your offer, it'll be first time he didn't do something for $1M."

"If Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he's earned bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain," Gingrich shot back at a campaign stop in New Hampshire Monday, "then I would be happy to at least listen to him."

On the Web, Romney's campaign unveiled a new site, UnreliableLeader.com, which focuses on Gingrich's work with Democrats throughout his career. The campaign also released a web video last week  reprising a "Meet the Press" appearance last spring in which Gingrich called the entitlement reform plan introduced by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan "right-wing social engineering." In turn, Gingrich took a swipe at Romney's Senate run in the 1990s, claiming that he ran "to the left of Teddy Kennedy in Massachusetts in 1994."

Holding his tongue has never been Gingrich's strongest suit, and he knows it. He made a decision early in his campaign to make an effort toward keeping the campaign positive in the primaries, but it hasn't been easy for him. In a recent interview with Yahoo News, Gingrich said he was impressed with how he was able to avoid getting into heated disputes with other Republicans.

"It's getting easier. The more often I do it, the easier it gets," Gingrich said. "I'm a natural debater. I've spent my whole career debating.

You can read Gingrich's full letter after the jump:

December 13, 2011

Dear supporters and staff,

Since I announced my candidacy for President of the United States, I have made it clear that I intended to run a positive, solutions-based campaign. There is not doubt, these are difficult times for our country. The American people deserve a respectful and constructive campaign that focuses on a vision for rebuilding the country we love.

It is critical the Republican nominee emerge from this primary campaign un-bloodied, so that he or she can make the case against President Obama from a position of strength.

For these reasons I have refrained from launching attacks on my Republican opponents, though I have reserved the right to respond when my record has been distorted. 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. That same day, however, Mr. Romney announced, "I'm not going to say outrageous things that can be used to hang [a GOP opponent] down the road." I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. So let us hope that from this point forward we can devote our energies to real issues, such as discussing our plans for our nation's economic recovery and helping to create millions of new jobs for the American people.

I also want to reiterate to each of you what I have said from the beginning of our campaign, and most recently last Saturday in Iowa: 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.

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.

Thank you as always for your support and enthusiasm.

Sincerely,

Newt Gingrich

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