Gingrich's 'planned assault' on Romney: Too late?

A stumbling Newt backs off earlier promises to run a campaign free of damaging attacks — and sets his crosshairs on the GOP frontrunner

(Image credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

With a week to go to the Iowa caucuses, all bets are off. In a new statement targeting Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has backed off earlier promises to launch a campaign free of negative attacks. In the statement, Gingrich's camp mocks the former Massachusetts governor for calling himself a "conservative businessman," citing a 2002 Romney quote in which he characterizes his views as "progressive." Team Gingrich asserts that its portrayal of Romney as a "Massachusetts moderate" isn't a slight, but rather an "accurate description of who he is." Considering Newt's recent series of setbacks, is throwing down the gauntlet this late in the game a wise move?

Newt needs something new: Gingrich has certainly "thrown elbows at Romney in the past," says Jonathan Martin at Politico, but those were "spur-of-the moment" and straight from the candidate's mouth; this, on the other hand, is a "planned assault." The Gingrich camp is "urgently in need" of momentum and this new offensive campaign "indicates a more significant step toward something that mixes issues and political character" — certainly a "different thing" for Gingrich and his team.

"A first: Newt camp goes on attack (and with oppo)"

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You call this an attack? Please: "I put 'attack' in square-quotes because the memo barely qualifies as such," says Tommy Christopher at Mediaite. "It's simply a cobbling together of various Mitt Romney quotes that portray him as a moderate who's willing to compromise." While the Gingrich camp's use of Romney's 2002 "progressive" quote is "obviously designed to hurt Romney with Republican base voters," it's unlikely that the attacks will "move the needle in any meaningful way." After all, Romney's greatest strength is his "electability" among independent voters. Painting him as a moderate will only reinforce that.

"Newt Gingrich ‘attack’ memo reinforces the case for Mitt Romney"

Newt has nothing to lose: While Newt did promise a "stronger counter-punch" to Romney's direct attacks, he's apparently decided "to throw roundhouses unprompted," says Allahpundit at Hot Air. And though focusing on Romney instead of Ron Paul might seem counter-intuitive given Paul's polling strength in Iowa, it effectively turns next Tuesday's caucus into a "Paul vs. Stop Paul" battle. If Newt can do enough damage to Mitt he might be able to snag the undecided vote as the more viable "Stop Paul" option. And if Mitt is wounded badly enough heading into New Hampshire, he'll take a "ferocious beating in the media for underperforming." If Iowa is a "jump ball" anyway, the question surrounding Newt's new offensive is: "Why not?"

"Oh my: Gingrich finally set to go negative on Romney?"

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