The Romney campaign is out with a new attack on Newt Gingrich this morning which, if taken in the right direction, could be absolutely toxic for the former speaker’s campaign. Romney’s press release, headlined “I Think Grandiose Thoughts” (a direct quote from Gingrich at last night’s debate), lists a multitude of celebrated statesmen and historical figures who Gingrich has compared himself to over the years, including Abraham Lincoln, Charles de Gaulle, and the Duke of Wellington. Here’s Newt likening himself to The Great Compromiser:
Henry Clay: “Putting his tumultuous four years in the speaker’s chair into historical perspective, the former history professor compared himself to 19th century statesman Henry Clay, ‘the great compromiser’ who lost three bids for the presidency and served as speaker and secretary of state. Gingrich said that like Clay, he did more than just preside over the House. ‘I was not a presider, I was the leader,’ Gingrich said in the interview. ‘I think Henry Clay’s probably the only other speaker to have been a national leader and a speaker of the House simultaneously.’” (William Welch, “Gingrich: I’ll Go Down As Leader, Clinton As Tragedy,” USA Today, 8/30/99)
President Obama had a penchant for making similar grand comparisons during his 2008 campaign, and the McCain campaign had some success attacking him on this. In some ways, Gingrich may be even more vulnerable in this area. While Obama was able to pull off false modesty when absolutely necessary, Gingrich hasn’t shown the same ability. His Kanye-esque declaration about “grandiose ideas” last night, which bordered on self-parody, was a prime example. All Romney needed to do is put the narrative in the public consciousness, and Gingrich, being Gingrich, will likely provide the rest.