Back in 2008, I spent a lot of time bashing on Team Obama for it's unrelenting character smears of Hillary Clinton (an unrelenting attack that we just found out was officially sanctioned by then Candidate Obama himself). Well it seems that there is some character assassination going on this year - on the right hand side of the aisle. Team Romney - taking a page directly from Barack Obama's campaign playbook, has decided to engage in some very egregious character assassination of it's own.
Needing to convince Republican voters before the Florida primary on Tuesday that Newt Gingrich is an unacceptable option as the party’s presidential nominee, Mr. Romney is increasingly carrying out the attack himself.
It is hardly his first foray onto the dark side, but it is the most intense of his political career and a particular challenge for a candidate whose demeanor has been defined largely by caution and a can-do, problem-solving attitude.
Since his loss in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, Mr. Romney and his aides have carefully planned lines of attack that have emptied their opposition research file against Mr. Gingrich and put Mr. Romney in the midst of a highly personal battle in which he is no longer relying on advertising by an outside group to take the toughest shots at his opponent.
Mr. Romney is now fully participating in his campaign’s efforts to attack Mr. Gingrich’s morals and raise doubts about his emotional stability. Whether he can be withering enough without turning off voters or will appear too politically calculated is one of the biggest tests so far of his skills as a candidate.
The attacks were highly coordinated coming both from the campaign and surrogates. One of the more questionable attacks is one that even CNN had to classify as "Misleading"...
The verdict: Misleading. While Romney says he doubted the ad was his, a news release sent by his press office one day before the debate, includes a link to the Spanish-language radio ad and offers highlights of the ad's major themes, including the, "Spanish is the language of the ghetto" accusation. The ad, entitled, "Hechos," or "Facts," includes examples that attempt to show that Gingrich is not a "Reagan conservative." It is clear from both the news release and the ad itself that it was "Paid For by Romney for President, Incorporated."
While Spanish is the largest single language other than English used in bilingual education in the United States, Gingrich is correct that he did not specifically refer to Spanish as the language of the ghetto. However, he did release the video later saying his word choice in the March 31 speech was not the best.
It was an attack so cowardly that when questioned on it during last Thursday's debate, Governor Romney initially tried to blame it on his Super PAC - a dodge that Wolf Blitzer did not let him get away with.
The attacks by the surrogates have been especially egregious. Four banner headlines on the Drudge Report blare that Newt hated Reagan and talked badly about him and that he kicked the Reagan revolution to the curb like yesterday's garbage. The problem is that people tied to Reagan - including his son Michael - have refuted Team Romney's claims. The attacks were so bad, that top conservative apologists Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin (the first two have refused to endorse in the primary and Levin is a Santorum guy) have spent the last two days vociferously defending Gingrich from the attacks.
Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan Staffer, wrote what is probably the definitive defense of Gingrich on the pages of American Spectator.
If politics were sports, the period of the Reagan Revolution from 1981-1989 would be the 1927 Yankees. Without doubt, Ronald Reagan, would be the political version of Babe Ruth. As seen today by his fellow Americans, Reagan is viewed as America's greatest president in poll after poll (as in this one last year from Gallup that puts him even above the revered Abraham Lincoln).
But just as Babe Ruth was the leader of the Yankees, the leader of the team -- there was a team. Without which there would have been no Murderers' Row. Not to mention, no pennant and no World Series.
Ronald Reagan and the Reagan Revolution that he led had the political, intellectual, and governmental version of Murderers' Row. There was vision, energy, and principle when they ran out onto the political playing field. As with the Yankees of 1927, the Reagan Revolution had a star line-up. ...
...Newt Gingrich was part of the Reagan Revolution's Murderers' Row. And anybody who was in Washington in the day, much less in the Reagan White House or the 1984 Reagan re-election campaign (and I would make that particular cut of three), knew it.
Mitt Romney - besides not being in Washington DC in the day - was not even a Conservative.
The closest Mitt Romney ever got to the Reagan Revolution is apparently because he reads about it 30 years later. And he isn't even reading everything he should. This is the man, remember, who proudly professed when running against Ted Kennedy in 1994:
"I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush"
A peculiar stance considering Reagan carried Massachusetts twice in his two presidential landslides.
The attacks have been so egregious that Tea Party angel Sarah Palin took to the pages of Facebook to decry the attacks.
We have witnessed something very disturbing this week. The Republican establishment which fought Ronald Reagan in the 1970s and which continues to fight the grassroots Tea Party movement today has adopted the tactics of the left in using the media and the politics of personal destruction to attack an opponent.
We will look back on this week and realize that something changed. I have given numerous interviews wherein I espoused the benefits of thorough vetting during aggressive contested primary elections, but this week’s tactics aren’t what I meant. Those who claim allegiance to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment should stop and think about where we are today. Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, the fathers of the modern conservative movement, would be ashamed of us in this primary. Let me make clear that I have no problem with the routine rough and tumble of a heated campaign. As I said at the first Tea Party convention two years ago, I am in favor of contested primaries and healthy, pointed debate. They help focus candidates and the electorate. I have fought in tough and heated contested primaries myself. But what we have seen in Florida this week is beyond the pale. It was unprecedented in GOP primaries
I understand the reason why Team Romney is doing this. They THINK that the former Speaker won South Carolina by being "on the attack". However, they are sadly mistaken.
Successful politicians absorb the signals and change up. Not Mr. Romney. If politics were evolution, the governor would still be swimming in the primordial soup.
That much was clear this week. The first signal was Mr. Gingrich's resounding victory in South Carolina. If Mr. Romney were listening, he'd have understood that vote was as much against him as it was for Mr. Gingrich. It took but one punchy Gingrich debate performance to have voters abandoning the front-runner in droves.
South Carolina voters also clearly explained why. Exit polls showed that Mr. Romney's two (and only) messages—that he is the best suited to turn around the economy and to defeat Barack Obama—aren't working for the majority of voters. Mr. Gingrich beat Mr. Romney on both issues. The electorate explained that they first and foremost want a candidate willing to passionately promote conservative ideals.
Emphasis mine. This is something that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity both picked up on Monday. It is something that Team Romney has YET to pick up on.
This is not opinion - this is fact based on exit polling after last week's South Carolina primary. People who self identified as "Somewhat" or "Very" conservative broke overwhelmingly for Newt Gingrich - while those who self identified as "Moderate" or "Liberal" broke for Romney.
It is a message that Team Romney needs to pick up on quickly. Because if he doesn't, when he goes up against the Obama Slime Machine, they are going to be murdered (metaphorically of course) and the base will not be there to prop him up. The base already suspects that both front runners are "conservatives of convenience" and will need reminding of their conservative promises. However, if you don't even attempt to come up with a conservative message, the base is just as likely to stay home.
Team Romney can still pull this out. He needs to find a conservative message and sell it like he really believes it. This cold, calculating "Presidential" air he is trying to project only makes him look cold and calculating...and we already have cold and calculating in the White House.
UPDATE: The NYTimes is now reporting that Team Romney definitely coordinated the attacks this week against Newt Gingrich up to AND INCLUDING the mass of negative headlines on the Drudge Report
A team of some of the most fearsome researchers in the business, led by Mr. Romney’s campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, spent days dispensing negative information about Mr. Gingrich, much of it finding its way to the influential Drudge Report, which often serves as a guide for conservative talk radio and television assignment editors and to which Mr. Rhoades has close ties.
The size and enthusiasm of Mr. Gingrich’s events scared supporters of Mr. Romney, who had struggled to build similar audiences. Local activists backing Mr. Romney complained that his Boston team was too regimented and slow to meet the challenge.
Mitt Romney saw Florida slipping away from him so he lashed out. These are not the actions of a confident candidate - these are the actions of a desperate, despicable campaign. The GOP deserves better than this.