With recent national polls showing Newt Gingrich catching up with the Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney is opening a new round of attacks which use what's known about Newt's skeletons -- mostly from his post-Congress career as a pseudo-lobbyist -- to make people afraid of what else is out there. The strategy hinges on two gambits: first to diffuse Gingrich's pretty effective portrayal of Romney as a greedy corporate raider (which ultimately got Romney to agree to release his tax returns) and steady hum of fear about just what else is waiting to come out about Gingrich (thus Romney's attempts to get Gingrich to release all kinds of documents to portray Gingrich). "If you’re going to be president of the United States, people have to understand your full record," Romney-backer Tim Pawlenty said in a conference call with reporters Monday. "We have very little insight and transparency as to what exactly [Gingrich] did for many for those clients, in many cases, for huge sums of money." The transcript of this phone call was emailed to reporters with the subject line: "GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: 'NEWT GINGRICH AS A POTENTIAL NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT: REALLY? I MEAN REALLY?'"
Romney wants to extract a ton of documents from Gingrich: the House ethics probe that led to his being fined $300,000, his contract as a "historian" with Freddie Mac, records of his work for his Center for Health Transformation, a for-profit group that facilitated a lot of the kind of meetings that lobbyists do. Whether or not Gingrich agrees, it's a good way to remind voters and the media that Gingrich has had a lot of explaining to do over the years.
A breakdown of Romney's case against Newt:
Greedy lobbyist: If Gingrich is serious that people should return money made on projects that failed, he should give his consulting money back.
“I’m calling again on speaker Gingrich to do two things: One, release all of the work product associated with his work at Freddie Mac and also return the funds he made from Freddie Mac. I wouldn’t normally have suggested other than he was the one who said if you made money on this failed model that you ought to return that money.”
"The speaker made $1.7 million in his enterprises from providing services to Freddie Mac. He ought to give it back...I didn’t hear him making those warnings to the nation, he should have if he was working insides this industry providing counsel to them he should have provided that advise to them and have communicated that to the nation."
While we're finally seeing Romney engage Gingrich, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey writes, calling on Gingrich to return the money he made isn't rejecting Gingrich's class warfare strategy, it's embracing it. Funny he's using the same "transparency" tactics too.
October surprise: There is no telling what scandals could come out about Gingrich late in the campaign.
The Washington Post's Philip Rucker reports Romney said Monday:
“We could see an October surprise a day from Newt Gingrich... And so let’s see the records from the ethics investigation, let’s see what they show. Let’s see who his clients were at the time he was lobbying Republican congressmen for Medicare Part D.... Was he working or were his entities working with any health-care companies that could’ve benefited from that? That could represent not just evidence of lobbying but potentially wrongful activity of some kind.”
As National Review's Robert Costa points out, the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future has spent more than 20 times what any other political group has spent on ads. And these ads will make up most voters' interactions with the candidates, because unlike the first three voting states, Florida is so big there's no way the candidates can go house to house. But unlike in Iowa, Romney's campaign is not leaving it to the PAC to air negative ads. This ad is part of the first wave of "contrast" ads Romney's campaign will air in Florida, NBC News reports.