At first, Newt Gingrich probably thought he’d come up with a brilliant strategy: he’d publicly promise to shun negative campaigning, thereby forcing Mitt Romney to take a similar pledge. After all, Gingrich never had the funds to compete with Romney when it came to attack ads in the first place.
Of course, the plan started to backfire as soon as Romney politely declined to stop his own negative advertising – and the media and conservative movement yawned in response. Now that Gingrich’s poll numbers have been decimated by negative advertising, the former Speaker is suddenly dropping the nice-guy act. And it’s making him look worse than any Romney attack ad ever could:
O’DONNELL: “You scolded Mitt Romney, his friends who are running this Super PAC that has funded that, and you said of Mitt Romney, ‘Someone who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president.’ I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?”
O’DONNELL: “You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?”
GINGRICH: “Well, you seem shocked by it! Yes. I mean, why – “
O’DONNELL: “Why are you saying he is a liar?”
GINGRICH: “Because this is a man whose staff created the PAC, his millionaire friends fund the PAC, he pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC – it’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth.”
But topping off the whole thing is Romney’s saccharine response to Gingrich’s insult, which makes the former Speaker’s comments seem even more vindictive. The amazing thing is Romney and his PACs have been absolutely brutal when it comes to running negative attack ads, but his comments make him look like he’s been taking the high road through the whole campaign:
Romney says he understands the former House Speaker “must be very angry,” but he’s not sure why.
The former Massachusetts governor says he wishes Gingrich well and that there’s still a long road ahead in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Romney says Gingrich may be lashing out because the former House Speaker has dropped so far in the Iowa polls.
Gingrich thought this strategy would position him as the gracious statesman, and he couldn’t have misjudged this more.