I don’t know about you, but to me, this doesn’t seem like the best approach for Newt.
And Ed Morrissey agrees:
…[I]t seems unwise for Gingrich to play the character card. Throughout his campaign, the subtext of Gingrich’s pitch is that his personal baggage — all of which redounds to character — is irrelevant in a campaign where ideology and fighting temperament matter most. As the Rasmussen polls showed the last couple of weeks, Gingrich scores very low on the character questions even among the Republican base. Even in a poll where Gingrich led nationally, he came in dead last in the current roster of four contenders for the Republican nomination on character — even below “Not Sure.”
Why would Gingrich pick a fight on the issue of character? Granted, he’s not talking about things like faithfulness to a wife vs. philandering, but even on the issue of campaign “lies” his own are pretty glaring.
Gingrich should play to his own strengths, not his weaknesses. He seemed to understand that at the beginning, but now he’s lost all focus in his rage.
The general perception has been that Gingrich’s major strength is as a fighter. And to give him his props, there’s no question that he has been, both in the sense of general pugnaciousness and of specific battles he fought when Speaker. He stood up not only to Democrats in the House and to President Clinton, but sometimes to those in his own party—although in the end they prevailed and successfully pressured him to resign.
And yet it’s a paradox that, as a campaigner, Gingrich actually didn’t have to use those combat skills very often. He ran in a conservative district in which the only real question at the outset (1974) was whether the public would choose a conservative Democrat (20-year incumbent Jack Flynt) or a conservative Republican (Gingrich). They chose the Democrat, and then they chose him again in 1976 by an even greater margin, although compared to his scarce Republican predecessors (Flynt had often run unopposed) Gingrich did pretty well.
But in 1978 Gingrich got lucky; Flynt finally retired and Newt won. After that, Gingrich was an incumbent member of the House from a South that was increasingly Republican, and from a district that was Republican as well. He seems to have never faced an election challenge worth mentioning after that except in 1990, when he almost lost again (although I can’t find any background on why that one was more difficult). So, although Gingrich was elected eleven straight times after those first two losses, he may be quite untested in the sense of being unused to tough campaigns. One thing for sure: were he to be nominated, he would be very unused to fighting for a win in a campaign against a liberal incumbent such as Obama, in a national election in which he would have to appeal to someone other than conservatives.
Now you might say Romney is quite untested, too, although to win as a Republican in Massachusetts is always somewhat of a test. But “tough and combative candidate” is not the way Romney has been billed in the first place. The fact that Gingrich is now reduced to sputtering rage at how tough and mean Romney is being to him is just as likely to help Romney as Gingrich right now—perhaps more so. It makes Romney seem to be more of an alpha-male and Gingrich less of one.
Those who criticize Romney often like to say that Romney could never be tough enough to fight Obama. But Romney seems to be standing up to Gingrich rather well and keeping his cool. Gingrich to Romney, not so much. And if Gingrich can’t stand up to Romney, how in the world will he ever stand up to Obama?
[NOTE: More here.]