Romney campaign works on anti-Gingrich strategy
December 1st, 2011
05:39 PM ET
11 years ago

Romney campaign works on anti-Gingrich strategy

Washington (CNN) – As Newt Gingrich continues his surge in the GOP primary race, Mitt Romney's campaign -rattled and concerned- clearly is moving into what one adviser calls "a fighting mode." Says another strategist close to the campaign: "Suffice it to say we know who we are running against, and we are ready."

From conversations with aides inside and close to the campaign, it's clear the Romney camp is in the process of devising a new attack strategy that goes beyond the former Massachusetts governor's declaration of Gingrich as a "career politician." The attack would take that label a step further and portray Gingrich as what one source describes as "an inside operator" who "has been selling access."

The contrast, these sources say, would be between Romney's experience– a Washington outsider, one-time Massachusetts governor, head of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics –and Gingrich's experience- as a former Houser speaker who "stayed inside the beltway" to peddle access.

"It's hard to figure out where to start with Gingrich," says one source. But they're not overlooking anything.

There's the personal life, for instance. Romney's camp sent out a flier in Iowa this past weekend reminding voters saying Romney is "the strongest Republican to beat Barack Obama and protect our values," adding that "Mitt Romney lives his values. He has been married to Ann for 42 years with five sons and daughters-in-law and 16 grandchildren…" The contrast, of course, is with Gingrich who is on his third marriage and had an extramarital affair -with his current wife, Callista- during the Clinton impeachment.

There are also issues the Romney camp believes are ripe for mining, such as immigration and global warming. In a recent CNN debate, Gingrich called for a more "humane" policy on immigration, which Romney has called amnesty. And Gingrich did an ad with Nancy Pelosi in 2008 supporting action to combat climate change. He now says the ad was a mistake and "really stupid." When Gingrich was asked Wednesday on Fox News if he thought global warming was man-made, he said "I believe we don't know."

It's more problematic, however, for the Romney camp to take on Gingrich on the matter of flip-flopping. They claim that Gingrich has changed positions on everything from his past criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan to health care mandates. But they also know that Romney is vulnerable when it comes to the charge of flip-flopping.

There is also the hope among Romney aides -and some even predict- that Gingrich will self-destruct under the glare of the frontrunner scrutiny. "He's irascible, unelectable, confrontational," says one Romney partisan. "At some point, the real Newt will come out. Voters will start to question his temperament. At the end of the day, he's just unlikable."

The trouble for the Romney campaign is that the voters haven't exactly warmed up to its candidate. There is, as one GOP strategist close to the Romney campaign puts it, "a sliver of the GOP electorate that just wants the most confrontational candidate" to take on Obama, and that's why they like Gingrich. There are others, however, who are more interested in winning. "Electability will be key," this Romney partisan says.

At this point, though, Republican primary voters remain volatile. Gingrich now leads the polls in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida. Romney is still up in New Hampshire considerably, but Gingrich is gaining ground. And the real problem for Romney, according to one source, is that "we don't have a lot of time" before the Iowa caucuses, which are on January 3. So it's no surprise that Romney will begin to air TV ads in Iowa starting Friday. He has clearly decided to engage in the state, and there is little time to waste.

- CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this story.

Also see:

Gingrich: Race will come down to 'Newt and Not-Newt'

Romney: Obama will 'cower' from debating his record

Romney and Gingrich take gloves off

Gingrich embraces 'lifelong politician' label

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (19 Responses)

    This is truly hilarious!! Which is the lesser of the two evils?

    December 1, 2011 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  2. Alex

    Newt and Romney the two biggest flip floppers. I'll vote for Ron Paul, I'm tired of presidents who lie to the American people.

    December 1, 2011 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  3. Mark

    If you haven't seen Romney's flustered reaction to the recent Fox interview it's worth looking up, just to see the "real" person behind the facade.

    December 1, 2011 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  4. T'sah from Virginia

    I am having a moment with all of this – What a soap opera!!!

    What get's to me is the fact that all of Cain's followers are now choosing ginGRINCH – one cheater to another and they don't "see" it!!

    Then you have the ginGRINCH and MITTens battling and one of them Flip-Flops just as much as the other and they are both accusing each other of Flip-Flopping!!! Jeez!!!

    This is getting very interesting!!!

    Obama 2012

    December 1, 2011 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  5. Squealy

    He should just wait it out because Gingrich will lose his flavor of the month status at some point approximately 3 weeks from now. On the other hand, if Romney does try to actively counter Gingrich, watching MSNBC will be particularly fun for the next few weeks. Oh, what to wish for, what to wish for. . .

    December 1, 2011 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Here's the strategy to defeate Newt Gingrich. Keep cameras and microphones in his face until he pops and launches into his disturbed hyperbole.

    December 1, 2011 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  7. Thomas

    If they both wore a mask , they would be great Mexican wrestlers !

    Two heads on one smake !

    December 1, 2011 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  8. CoJo

    obvious Florida people want to relive the Enron, Tyco days, where companies can do what ever accounting scheme the can dream up (as long as the stock holders don't catch them)). Obviously Florida likes losing their retirement accounts and homes. I guess they are so rich in Florida, losing 10 million here or there is pocket change. What you don't know Gingrich wasn't to do away with ALL controls on companies so that Enron, Tyco, BAC (and other banks), AIG, Lehman (and other investment firms) can go back to the hay-days? Well when Florida is sold off to pay for debts due the "to big to fail" companies, maybe china will buy it.

    December 1, 2011 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  9. MTATL67

    Mitt don't worry too much. Newt will take care of that for you. Three time adulterer, Freddy Mac, Ethics violations and stupid comments (poor students get a job, take a bath get a job), signing pledging build fence southern border.

    December 1, 2011 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  10. Rabb

    Someone tell Mitt that his new arguments against Newt in a primary will fall flat on their face. How do u tell supporters of capitalism that someone is selling access and that be a bad thing. Newt's numbers might go up more if this is all Romney got.

    December 1, 2011 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  11. scat398

    Mitt don't worry too much you aren't going to be the nominee...end of story.

    December 1, 2011 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  12. scat398

    I'll take Gingrich over Romney any day of the week but I'm still voting for Ron Paul, the only quality candidate actually running for president.

    December 1, 2011 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    One thing for certain, limp wristed Mittens will not have to make up lies to fight Newt, because Newt has made a lot of crazy statements.

    December 1, 2011 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  14. larry5

    This is exactly why Romney is toast. He should be going after Obama. Newt understands this and that distinction will carry the day.

    December 1, 2011 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  15. DaveinSC

    Wait till the Daily Show starts in on Newt. If nothing else, Newt will be good for some good belly laughs.

    December 1, 2011 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  16. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    At least Mittens will has his millions of dollars to fall back on, when the republicans dump him once again. That is to be expected in that, according to Newt, Newt advised Ronald Reagan on trickle down economics, Newt defeated communism, Newt balanced the budget, Newt had affairs with other women because he was patriotic, Newt was not a lobbyist, he just collected money for being a lobbyist.

    December 1, 2011 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  17. Grant Allen

    LOL Newt GinGrinch vs. Mittens Romney. It's only a matter of which one loses to Obama.

    December 1, 2011 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  18. willie floyd

    I continue to wonder how anyone with a brain can vote for the party which got us into the mess we're in now. No matter who the candidate might be doesn't really matter.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    December 1, 2011 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  19. Mike

    Romney is just jealous that Newt has some success to sell.

    December 1, 2011 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |