Gingrich would then follow up that applause line with another, reminding the audience that any of the GOP candidates in the early stages of the nomination campaign would be a far better choice for president than Obama. He went one better in a September debate held at the Reagan Library in California, when he blasted the debate moderators for repeatedly goading the Republicans to fight each other.
GOP voters found Newt’s positive message so refreshing that, when other conservative frontrunners faltered, Gingrich’s poll numbers nationwide soared, lifting him into the lead by a substantial margin three weeks before the Iowa caucuses. But Gingrich’s sudden lead was too good to last, as was Gingrich’s mature and considerate behavior, once he was the one in the frontrunner’s hot seat.
As an experienced politician, Gingrich was well aware that negative ads from desperate opponents is the price of being in the lead in such races. In light of his own statements at the start of the race reminding his fellow candidates to avoid damaging the chances for defeating Obama in November, Gingrich’s current behavior in launching savage attacks against the party’s clear favorite, Mitt Romney, is unforgivable.
AN AVALANCHE OF NEGATIVE ADS
Romney was not alone in attacking Gingrich with an avalanche of ads before the Iowa caucuses. The well-funded campaigns of Rick Perry and Ron Paul also savaged Gingrich’s record. The ads succeeded to destroy the Gingrich lead over Romney; giving first Ron Paul and then Rick Santorum a chance to surge ahead.
Yet a wounded and angry Gingrich ignored his own reminder to remember Reagan’s 11th commandment and is now throwing his statesmanship act overboard as he aims to take exact revenge on Romney. He has gone after him ever since viciously and mercilessly in debates, speeches and ads, designed to ruin Romney.
Reminding many of his critics of the “take no prisoners” tactics for which he became notorious while he was a leader of the GOP in the House, and which became known as “the politics of personal destruction,” Gingrich has set out on a vendetta to destroy Romney’s candidacy, even if that means helping Obama win re-election in November.
In Iowa, Gingrich complained bitterly about the impact of millions of dollars of SuperPAC money used by his GOP opponents to saturate the airwaves with negative ads against him, while he did not have enough campaign funds to afford to answer those attacks with ads of his own.
But just a week later, with an infusion of $5 million in campaign funds for his own SuperPAC, supplied by his longtime friend, Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich is doing exactly the same thing, first in New Hampshire, and then in South Carolina.
NO MORE SHADES OF GRAY
The new Gingrich has dispensed with any shades of gray in his attack ads aimed at Mitt Romney. After initially insisting that his campaign would refrain from running any negative ads, Gingrich is now calling that idea a failed “experiment” which he has abandoned.
The Gingrich ads in South Carolina brand Romney as an untrustworthy “Massachusetts moderate. Another Gingrich campaign 30-second television commercial characterizes Romney as “timid” compared to Gingrich as someone who offers “bold, conservative leadership.”
Another Gingrich commercial ticks off a list of moderate and liberal positions on social issues which Romney took while governor of Massachusetts which he has repudiated since he began running for president in 2008. Romney admits that he has changed his position on some of these issues over the years, as does Gingrich, but while Gingrich has reserved the right for himself to change his mind, he is unwilling to grant that same privilege to Romney. Instead, in his negative ads, Gingrich calls each switch fresh evidence that Romney “can’t be trusted,” by Republican conservatives.
With the New Hampshire primary generally conceded to Romney well in advance, the new Gingrich ads were designed primarily to resonate with the more socially conservative Republicans in South Carolina, which is the first state where Gingrich needs to win the primary, or finish a strong second, in order to assure the continued viability of his candidacy, into the Florida primary and beyond.
Without a strong performance in both South Carolina on January 21, and Florida a week later, Gingrich cannot hope to stay competitive into Super Tuesday on March 6, which most observers expect will decide the winner of the GOP nomination.
GINGRICH GETS AN INFUSION OF AD MONEY
Powered by the infusion of money from Adelson’s SuperPAC, Gingrich is going into the South Carolina media market this week with a new anti-Romney ad. It attacks the Massachusetts governor’s record as a venture capitalist who sought to enrich himself by buying out companies, milking them for their cash, closing them down and leaving their employees out of work.
This Gingrich ad is particularly damaging to whoever will emerge with the GOP nomination because it will serve as a precedent for the same type of attacks that Obama is expected to use against Republican support for business in the general election. Because similar ads will have already been used by Gingrich, Obama and the Democrats will have a ready-made defense for anyone who challenges the ads as unfair.
Gingrich’s anti-Romney ad is so detrimental to Republican prospects for victory in November against Obama that even Ron Paul, who is also running hard to defeat Romney, condemned them as wrong. Paul said that no Republican should be attacking the way that buyout firms like Romney’s Bain Capital operate, and their important role in saving troubled companies in the American free market system.
TAKING WORDS OUT OF CONTEXT
“I think they’re totally misunderstanding the way the market works,” Paul said of those making the charges against Romney’s business record. “They are either just demagogueing or they don’t have the vaguest idea how the market works.”
Paul also came to Romney’s defense for saying “I like to be able to fire people who provide services to me,” at a campaign stop in New Hampshire this week. The comment was made during a discussion about the desirability of individuals being able to choose among competing health insurance policies based upon their relative performance. Nevertheless, the comment was nt immediately pounced upon by GOP candidates Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry, who used the comment to give the false impression that Romney enjoyed destroying jobs when he was a venture capitalist.
Paul said that the attacks on that statement were wrong because the comment was taken “way out of context.” In fact, Romney was actually saying that he wants to fire companies, not people.
This is the full text of Romney’s statement. “. . .That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I’m going to go get somebody else to provide that service to me,” he added.
HOW VENTURE CAPITALISTS SAVE AND CREATE JOBS
Paul also defends Romney’s claim that as a venture capitalist, he created and saved jobs by restructuring failing companies.
Paul said. “You save jobs when you reorganize companies that are going to go bankrupt. And they [Romney’s critics] don’t understand that.”
Romney, who is now quite wealthy, was also criticized for a statement he made on the campaign trail Sunday that he also knew what it felt like to be afraid of being fired. On Monday he explained the background of that statement. He said, “[When] I came out of school, and got an entry level position like the other people that were freshly minted MBAs, like anybody that starts at the bottom of an enterprise, you wonder, when you don’t do so well, whether you’re going to be able to hang onto your job.”
Romney has boasted that venture capital firm, Bain Capital, created a net gain of 100,000 jobs by starting some new firms, taking over older ones, remaking them, and then spinning off others. Romney also admitted that when some of those troubled companies he took over eventually failed, some jobs were also lost, but on the whole, many more were created.
PERRY EXPANDS ON GINGRICH’S CHARGE
Gingrich criticized Romney’s business record, claiming that his company, Bain Capital “apparently looted the companies, left people totally unemployed and walked off with millions of dollars.”
Rick Perry, campaigning in South Carolina, immediately seized upon the criticism by Gingrich and expanded upon it. Perry said that for the victims of Bain Capital’s downsizing, it was “the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina to tell you he feels your pain. Because he caused it,” he said.
Referring to Romney’s comment about being afraid of being fired, Perry said, ‘I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips – whether he’d have enough of them to hand out.”
Perry added that one of the companies whose 150 employees lost their jobs after Romney’s firm took it over was a South Carolina photo album manufacturer. “They looted that company,” Perry said, referring to Bain Capital.
The Romney campaign has expanded its own paid ad presence in South Carolina, buying $1.2 million in air time that will also give them a significant presence on Florida television. And the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future said that it was dropping an additional $2.3 million into an ad buy in South Carolina.
The outside support for Gingrich’s campaign came from a $5 million donation to an independent SuperPAC committee called Winning Our Future, which is supporting Gingrich, and is run by his former associates. The donation came from Sheldon Adelson, who owns the Las Vegas-based Sands chain of casinos which makes most of its profits from legal gambling operations in Singapore and Macau.
Adelson is Jewish, and an enthusiastic supporter of Israel. His views on the Middle East closely track those of expressed by Gingrich during the campaign, including that the Palestinians are an “invented” people.
A long-time Republican donor, Adelson is limited by campaign laws on how much he can give directly to a candidate’s campaign. He met Gingrich in the mid-1990s and hit it off immediately. Adelson gave more than $1 million to a previous nonprofit political operation guided by Gingrich in 2006.
Adelson, who is worth $21 billion, told associates that he expects to spend at least another $5 million during the campaign, either on contributions to another pro-Gingrich SuperPAC, or to the winner of the Republican nomination for president, even if it is not Gingrich.
Under the federal election law, the Gingrich campaign is not supposed to be notified of such donations because the Super PAC is supposed to be independent.
Until last week, Gingrich had been leading in the South Carolina polls, but after his narrow 8 vote win over Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, Romney pulled ahead there. Ron Paul came in third behind Romney and Santorum in Iowa, with Gingrich finishing a disappointing 4th.
THE GROWING ROLE OF SUPERPACS
Increasingly, Super PACs have played a crucial role in this election year. They were declared legal by a controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case. The court ruled that limits on contributions by corporations and unions are an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom of speech. Those limits were imposed by the McCain-Feingold act, intended to reform federal election laws and passed during the Bush administration. The Obama administration bitterly criticized the Citizens United decision, but has not been able to pass legislation to correct the flaws in the law which the court struck down.
The SuperPACS are forbidden from coordinating with the candidates’ campaigns. Several are run by political operatives who had previously worked with the candidates, and whose support for them is well known.
Romney’s campaign has benefitted from a Super PAC known as Restore Our Future, which is staffed by former advisers of his. The money from that PAC helped him to fend off a last-minute campaign by Gingrich in Iowa. Meanwhile, Romney’s campaign had to spend relatively little ad money of its own in Iowa, and is in good financial shape for the rest of the campaign.