Newt Gingrich has become enough of a threat to Mitt Romney that the Romney campaign has no choice but to respond. Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blasted Newt Gingrich as a career politician who has “never run anything,” and now two more Romney surrogates – former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent – are piling on:
“If the nominee is Newt Gingrich, then the election is going to be about the Republican nominee, which is exactly what the Democrats want,” Talent said, per Reid Epstein [of Politico]. “If they can make it about the Republican nominee, then the president is going to win.”
When Gingrich was Speaker, Talent said he was so erratic that “you would have to check the newspapers, this was before the internet, to see what the Speaker had said that you have to clean up in your own district.” …
“For Newt Gingrich in an effort of self-aggrandizement to come out and throw a clever phrase that had no other purpose than to make him sound a little smarter than the conservative leadership,” Sununu said. “Gingrich’s undercutting of Paul Ryan proves that he’s more concerned about Newt Gingrich than he is about conservative principles.”
If Romney is going to go after Gingrich, this is the smartest way to do it. There’s no need for Romney to get his own hands dirty, especially since any direct shots he takes at Gingrich could end up antagonizing the conservative base. And the attacks are more potent when they come from Republican figures who conservatives have deeper respect for, like Christie and Talent.
Will Romney be asked whether he agrees with the statements from his surrogates? Of course. Can he brush off these questions with vague comments about how he trusts the insight from Sununu and Talent, but right now he’s personally more focused on getting his message out to the public than on the flaws of his opponents? Definitely. He doesn’t have to get involved in the mud-slinging.
One advantage that Romney also has is that Gingrich has countless enemies in D.C., many of them from the Republican Party. Members of Congress may not be wild about the idea of Romney as the nominee, but there are probably plenty who fear a Gingrich nomination even more. If the race continues its current trajectory, expect a lot more prominent voices from Washington to start echoing the same critiques that Sununu and Talent are making against Gingrich.