Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Newt Scorned

When Newt Gingrich entered the GOP presidential primary, he said he would run a different kind of campaign. Unfortunately for him, the other candidates are running very traditional campaigns.

As soon as Newt Gingrich became the flavor of the week, leading in the polls, he suffered the same attacks launched by Super Pacs from the other candidates. This has been the pattern - rotating favorites and spats of really vicious ads against the current favorite. Newt Gingrich was positioned to win in Iowa, if you believe the reporting and the polls, up until the last weeks in December and the beginning of January. Both Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are said to have blanketed the airwaves with negative attacks on Gingrich through their Super Pacs. The other candidates were no angels, either. All of them resorted to verbal assault on Gingrich. Gingrich began to say he felt "Romneyboated" in Iowa.

Just weeks ago, Gingrich was leading in the polls and his popularity has fallen in Iowa since the ads began. BusinessWeek reports that 45 percent of the ads being shown in Iowa criticized Gingrich for shifting policy positions on Freddie Mac and other groups regarding the home loan crisis after his 1999 resignation from the House. Most of the negative ads which amounted to approximately $3.7 million were directed at Gingrich and funded by GOP candidates Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Perry.

Gingrich continued to make his promise to keep his campaign positive. He vowed to not succumb to negative advertising against his opponents. Then, the worm turned. Gingrich was at the end of his rope and that is not a good place for him. His numbers sank in Iowa and by caucus night, he finished in fourth place.

Newt did not give a gracious speech after the loss. On the night of the caucuses, as the other candidates delivered their speeches after the results were in, all of them remained somewhat positive. Even Michele Bachmann, who placed dead last in her home state, was smiling and looking for a silver lining. Perry said he'd suspend his campaign but remained well-mannered. Not Newt. He was obviously angry and revengeful. He vowed the fight in New Hampshire would be very different. He praised Santorum for running a "positive campaign" while hitting the others. That was odd, though. I've listened to Santorum's speeches, including one I heard in person in New Orleans last summer, and he is quite nasty and snarky on occasion. Santorum has a mean side to his personality.

The day after the Iowa Caucuses, a New Hampshire newspaper ran a full page ad paid for by the Gingrich campaign. It was a split page - one side was Romney and one side Gingrich. It was to underscore their differences. Granted, the newspaper was a small one and probably will not make much of an impression, but it was an immediate and angry move.

Charles Krauthammer said that Gingrich was "like Ahab on the loose in New Hampshire", seeking vengeance.

Here's the truth - negative ads work. It is all nice and lovely for a candidate to say he or she will rise above the fray and only talk about issues. Until the ads start against him or her. And they will. No candidate escapes it and Gingrich is only too familiar with this fact. He himself was known for his sharp elbows and dark side in his previous life as Speaker of the House. This is not his first rodeo and he just sounds like a sore loser.

It's a shame. I expected better of him.

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