Newt Gingrich agreed he's misfired with his criticism of Mitt Romney's business record, telling a South Carolina voter it's "impossible" to talk about Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capitol with President Obama in the White House. Politico's Jonathan Allen reports that a Rick Santorum supporter told Gingrich, "I want to beg you to redirect and go after [Romney's] obvious disingenuous about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market." Gingrich responded, "I agree with you," and then added, "I agree with you," he said. "It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect." It's an unexpected -- if oddly deflecting -- admission, given that a pro-Gingrich super PAC is spending millions to air a mini-movie about Romney's Bain Capital record, not to mention that just a few hours earlier, in a town 60 miles away, Gingrich said, "I am for enterepreneurship, but I am also for the American people’s right to understand how the games are being played: are they fair to the American people, or are the deals being cut on behalf of Wall Street institutions and very rich people," The New York Times' Trip Gabriel reports.
Gingrich also urged followers that it's now or never in a letter today, The Hill's Jonathan Easley says. “There’s no more time for talking about stopping Mitt Romney... We’re going to do it next week in South Carolina or he’s almost certain to be the Republican nominee, whether conservatives like us want it or not. It’s up to you, right now.” Gabriel reports Gingrich conveyed the same sense of urgency to voters Wednesday morning, saying, “I believe the next 10 days are as important as any 10 days we’ve seen in modern American politics."
Despite criticism, Rick Perry hasn't stopped the Occupy Wall Street-esque attacks, even coining the placard-ready phrase "vulture capitalism." He said the phrase three times in his first stop in South Carolina Wednesday, NBC News' Carrie Dann reports. "The idea that you come in and destroy people's lives, the idea that you come in just to make a quick profit tear these companies apart," Perry said. "I understand restructuring, I understand these kind of things. But the idea that we can't criticize someone with these get-rich-quick schemes is not appropriate in my perspective."
Conservatives' shock at Gingrich's comments spurred new innovation in their anti-Gingrich insults. Creative destruction, if you will. Gingrich has been called a "angry little attack muffin" and a "butch Arianna Huffington," and Rush Limbaugh suggested this comeback for Romney: "Yeah, I like firing people, but I never fired a wife on her deathbed." Limbaugh's site posted this image:
Of course, Gingrich isn't making those attacks for no reason. Limbaugh might have compared him to Elizabeth Warren, but the senate candidate raised $5.7 million in the fourth quarter -- more than what a few of the presidential candidates raised. Republican pollster Frank Luntz said on Fox after the New Hampshire primary:
"Conservatives should not be defending capitalism. They should be defending economic freedom. And there is a difference. The word capitalism was created by Karl Marx to demonize those people who make a profit. We’ve always talked about the free enterprise system or economic freedom. Suddenly, they’re trying to defend something that has only 18 percent support."
And Romney's not so good at defending it anyway. There was the $10,000 bet, the "I like firing people" comment. In December, when a reporter asked Ann Romney what her favorite Christmas present from her husband, her answer wasn't the ultimate dream present -- a puppy, obviously -- but even better: "The best gift was a horse." Gingrich might want to ease up on the anti-rich folks attacks, but only because Romney makes them too easy.