CONCORD, N.H. -- They poked the bear one too many times.
After a long effort to stay on message and stick to discussing his ideas for the future, Newt Gingrich on Wednesday morning unloaded on Mitt Romney and Ron Paul in front of reporters here. Gingrich's choice of targets was clearly deliberate, since Paul and Romney have spent millions attacking him directly in campaign ads, and indirectly through surrogates, over the past month.
And now, it seems, Newt's had enough. In one lengthy sentence, Gingrich recited his rendition of Romney's biography. Among other things, Gingrich blasted Romney for backing "the most liberal" Democratic presidential candidate in 1992, for signing an abortion provision into the Massachusetts health care law passed under his leadership and for being "to the left" of most in the party.
"Governor Romney was first an independent, then repudiated Reagan-Bush, then voted for Paul Tsongas, the most liberal candidate in the '92 campaign, then ran to the left of Teddy Kennedy in 1994, then became a moderate to run for governor in 2002, and then with Romneycare, for example, that included state-funded abortions and specifically designating Planned Parenthood as a part of Romneycare, appointed liberal judges in order to placate Democrats and raised taxes on businesses, which I think is a job-killing approach," Gingrich said. "The contrast will be very wide and that will be a key part of what we describe going forward. I suspect it's going to be a very lively campaign."
His comments are part of a new effort to show a heightened "contrast" between him and his competitors.
Gingrich predicted that Romney would do "fairly well" in New Hampshire, a state where he is consistently polling at around 40 percent, but added that the party's conservative base is by no means sold on the former Massachusetts governor. "The fact is, in the end, Governor Romney has a very limited appeal in a conservative party," Gingrich announced, noting that Romney "failed totally to change Boston" during his governorship. When given an opportunity to congratulate Romney for winning in Iowa, Gingrich passed.
"I find it amazing that the news media continues to say he's the most electable Republican when he can't even break out of his own party," Gingrich went on to say, adding finally: "Governor Romney will get the message."
Then, when provoked by a reporter's question in which she read a new quote from Ron Paul that accused Gingrich of dodging the draft during Vietnam, Gingrich took aim at the Texas congressman.
"What he just said has about the same amount of accuracy as the newsletters he said he never wrote," Gingrich said, referring to a series of mailings published under Paul's name in the 1980s and 1990s that included several racist and incendiary passages. "This is a man who says wild and outrageous things with no facts and later denies that he said them or wonders who wrote them because it couldn't have been him."
As for the specific charge--that Gingrich evaded his duty by not serving in the military during the war--he said he received an automatic deferment because he was the father of two children at the time. (He probably wasn't fit to serve, anyhow. Gingrich's step-father, who was a career solider in the U.S. Army, said in an interview in 1996 that his son had "two of the flattest feet that there ever was" and that "he was never physically capable or qualified to be military.")
Gingrich signaled last week that he was planning to increasingly emphasize the records of his competitors. The Gingrich campaign also has a new ad buy in the works that it will unveil sometime this week.
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