GOP Rivals Try to Knock Gingrich From His Perch
The polls have crowned Newt Gingrich as Republican front-runner, and now his GOP rivals have recognized the coronation by sharpening their attacks on the former House speaker.
The latest assault came Friday in the form of a web video released by Mitt Romney’s campaign, blasting Gingrich for comments he made earlier this year critical of the plan put forward by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.
The video begins with various clips of Republican leaders praising Rep. Ryan’s budget outline, with text on the screen that reads, “Last May, Leading Republicans Praised Congressman Paul Ryan … For His Plan To Reform Medicare.”
The next line of text is “But Not Newt Gingrich,” as the video plays Gingrich’s critique of Ryan’s Medicare proposal, delivered in May on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich says, followed in the video by a wave of headlines and pundit soundbites from the fallout that ensued.
The clip closes with the line, “With Friends Like Newt, Who Needs The Left?”
The video is the latest example of the Romney campaign’s strategy to brand Gingrich as a rogue conservative, a message delivered by two of the former Massachusetts governor’s top surrogates Thursday.
“I was concerned that Speaker Gingrich was an unreliable leader because sometimes he said and did these kinds of things, but I concluded, in fact, that he says and does those kinds of things because he’s not reliable as a leader,” former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent said in a conference call organized by the Romney campaign. “My concern is that if he’s the nominee, I say this as a Republican, this election is going to be about him and that’s exactly what the Democrats want.”
“I don’t think Newt Gingrich cares about conservative principles. Newt Gingrich cares about Newt Gingrich,” former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu said Thursday on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”
Gingrich shrugged off the attacks at a stop in Greenville, S.C., reports the Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson.
“We’re gonna stay positive, we’re gonna stay solution oriented and talk about what America needs to do,” Gingrich said. “The only opponent I have is Barack Obama.”
That may be the way Gingrich sees things, but his GOP rivals appear to have a different take on the matter, as they attempt to eat into some of his support with just 25 days remaining until the Iowa caucuses.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has released two television ads in the past week playing up his social conservative credentials, fielded a question Thursday about Gingrich’s three marriages — and made no attempt to shy away from it.
“I didn’t make an oath just to my wife, I made an oath to God when I married my wife. I think it’s an important issue. But the American people will figure out these issues and work their way through them,” Perry responded.
Perry, who is running fourth in Iowa, also unveiled a television ad Thursday slamming Gingrich and Romney for supporting “government mandated health care.”
“I won’t let the big government liberals ruin this country,” Perry says in the spot, before touting his “outsider” status and desire to repeal the president’s health care law.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign, meanwhile, is reportedly doubling-down on it’s anti-Gingrich ad, “Hypocrisy,” according to Politico’s Maggie Haberman.
Gingrich’s decision to refrain from engaging his rivals has yet to blunt his rise in the polls, but should any of the charges begin to stick, he might have to drop the “happy” from his “happy warrior” strategy.
POOR JOB PERFORMANCE EVALUATION
A new Gallup poll shows that a record number of voters want to clean house in Congress…again. More than three-quarters — 76 percent — of those polled said they don’t think most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected, beating the poll’s previous record high of 70 percent in August.
Independents were the least content, with 82 percent voicing their disapproval, while 75 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats said the majority of legislators should not be rewarded with another term. The report mirrors other recent polls that reflect an American public increasingly pessimistic about Congress’ job performance.
The numbers shift, however, when constituents were asked to weigh in on their own representatives. More than half said their own congressional representative deserves to stay in office. As Gallup’s Frank Newport explains, this discrepancy is nothing new:
As has historically been the case, voters are much more positive about the U.S. representative from their own congressional district than they are about “most members of Congress,” with 53% saying their representative deserves to be re-elected, while 39% hold the opposite view. These opinions about voters’ local representatives in Congress are historically low, but not record lows. Twice in 2010, 49% of voters said their representative deserved to be re-elected, along with the historical low of 48% in 1992. In three separate surveys in 2010, 40% said their local representative did not deserve to be re-elected.
Meanwhile, 55 percent of respondents did not think President Obama deserves to be re-elected, either. Forty-three percent said he deserves another term, which is less support than he had in August but more than his all-time low of 37 percent in October 2010.
As Newport notes, the implications of this anti-Washington sentiment are unknown:
How this antipathy toward Congress plays out in next year’s congressional elections remains to be seen. Americans were not as negative last October, before the 2010 midterm elections, yet voters flipped 63 seats from Democratic to Republican control and gave the House to the GOP in the process. This was the largest seat gain by any party since 1948. If voters’ current sentiments toward Congress prevail through next November’s election, it is possible that control of the House would flip back to the Democrats, although such a conclusion is far from certain. Those in Congress can take solace in voters’ historically more positive views of re-electing their own member of Congress. While House elections clearly are affected by national “waves” of shifts in sentiment, these data suggest that members may be able to increase the chances of keeping their seats by playing up their local connection to voters in their districts — at least for districts that will not be radically changed because of redistricting.
SANTORUM’S BIG GET
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is set to pick up a key Iowa endorsement Friday at a campaign stop outside Des Moines.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz told Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register Thursday that he planned to back the former Pennsylvania senator’s candidacy. (Schultz supported Romney’s bid in the 2008 caucuses.)
Santorum’s campaign has scheduled a “major announcement” for 7 p.m. ET Friday in Johnston, where the endorsement is expected to be made official.
Scoring the support of Schultz will give Santorum’s Hawkeye State effort a much-needed boost ahead of next month’s caucuses.
Santorum has dedicated more time to Iowa than any of the other Republican hopefuls, visiting all 99 counties, but has little to show for it in the polls.
The most recent Des Moines Register survey released last Saturday found that just 6 percent of likely GOP caucus-goers favored Santorum in the Jan. 3 nominating event.
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama is in Washington with no public events scheduled.
Rick Santorum campaigns in Iowa, hosting a town hall in Cedar Falls at 9 a.m., speaking at the University of Northern Iowa at 12 p.m., holding a meet-and-greet in Newton at 4 p.m. and making what is being dubbed a “major announcement” in Johnston at 7 p.m.
Ron Paul campaigns in Iowa, hosting three town hall meetings — in Webster City at 11 a.m., in Mason City at 2 p.m., in Waverly at 5 p.m. — and a holding a rally at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls at 8 p.m.
Mitt Romney hosts a town hall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at 11:30 a.m.
Michele Bachmann holds an employee town hall at Nationwide Insurance in Des Moines, Iowa, at 3 p.m.
- Newt Gingrich holds a book signing event in Washington, D.C., at 4 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
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