Republican presidential primary candidate Newt Gingrich had hoped to connect with blue-collar New Hampshire voters by portraying rival Mitt Romney in a manner that would make them think twice before voting for a Gordon Gekko-like corporate raider who made his millions by "looting" companies without any regard for the jobs lost or communities destroyed on his path.
The strategy appears to have been ineffective and Gingrich is now in retreat.
Following his disappointing fourth place finish in the Iowa caucuses after once leading national and hawk-eye state polls, Gingrich said "We are not going to go out and run nasty ads," in reference to super PACs supporting Romney that spent roughly $3 million on negative ads attacking the former speaker of the House.
"But I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative-- that may be more a comment on his record than it is on politics."
In the week in between the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary Gingrich, on the stump and through PACs supporting him, went on a populist onslaught against Romney's record as CEO of the private equity firm Bain Capital. With a recent $5 million contribution from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, super PAC Winning Our Future released the trailer for the 27-minute movie "King of Bain," depicting that "When Mitt Romney Came to Town"( with Bain) he “destroyed” the American dream for “thousands of Americans and their families.”
The strategy was attacked by many conservative commentators who said Gingrich was opposing capitalistic principles long defended by the Republican Party, and brought to the debate focus rhetoric that was in line with and would ultimately benefit President Obama and Democrats.
After a once again placing a disappointing fourth place finish in the New Hampshire primary, POLITICO reports that Gingrich signaled Wednesday that he believes his criticism of Romney's record at Bain was a mistake and that he's created an impression that he was echoing Democrats. At an event in South Carolina Wednesday a Rick Santorum supporter said to Gingrich: "I think you’ve missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses. I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenuousness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market. I think it’s nuanced."
“I agree with you,” POLITICO reports Gingrich replied. “It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect. … I agree with you entirely."
That said, Rick Tyler, a top advisor for Winning Our Future told POLITICO that the super PAC still plans to begin a $3.4 million television airtime buy in South Carolina for ads that will include attacks on Romney for his work at Bain.
Less than three hours after POLITICO reported the former speaker of the House's comments in South Carolina, spokesman R.C. Hammond released an email stating that the story misrepresented Gingrich's intentions:
"Newt 2012 released the following statement from Press Secretary R.C. Hammond responding to misleading reports on an exchange Newt Gingrich had with a voter in Spartanburg, SC regarding Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital (during which the phrase “I crossed the line” was never uttered from Newt, despite the headline from Politico):
'This issue at hand is neither about Bain Capital, private equity firms, nor about capitalism. It is about Mitt Romney’s judgment and character. It was Governor Romney’s decision to base his candidacy, in large part, on his background as a portfolio manager. Thus, it is entirely legitimate to ask questions about whether he is accurately presenting how he conducted himself during that career.
'Reports by the Wall Street Journal and others contradict Governor Romney's claims that it was his goal at Bain Capital to make companies more successful. In fact, there were cases where Bain Capital made huge profits and left companies bankrupt. Further reports have cast doubt on Governor Romney's claim that he was responsible for 100,000 jobs being created thanks to his work at Bain Capital.
'Instead of accepting the responsibility to answer questions about his business background, the Romney campaign is throwing up a smokescreen about an attack on capitalism. That’s just more pious baloney from Mitt Romney and his campaign.'”
The POLITICO.com headline still reads "NEWT: I crossed line" at 5:30 p.m.
(H/T: Washington Examiner)