The Democratic National Committee is upping its attacks on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the apparent hope that his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, will become the GOP’s standard-bearer in 2012.
A DNC ad released Monday slams Romney, who has spent the vast majority of his life in the private sector, as a “career politician.” Other recent DNC ads targeted Romney’s “flip-flops” on major issues over the course of his political career and highlighted his sub-par performance in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier.
Months after Gingrich’s campaign was thought to be dead in the water, he has become the Republican front-runner in recent weeks after a series of strong debate performances and serious missteps by his rivals, such as former pizza mogul Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Still, despite polls showing Gingrich leading the rest of the field in many early primary states, the DNC is concentrating all its fire on Romney, the candidate experts say they view as a far greater threat to President Obama’s re-election prospects.
“Rightly or wrongly, the Obama campaign regards Romney as the only GOP candidate who could potentially beat the president in 2012,” University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato told The Daily Caller.
Sabato said that while former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman could also cause trouble for the White House, his campaign his largely perceived to be going nowhere, allowing the Democrats to concentrate on Romney.
Meanwhile, Sabato said the White House would see a Gingrich victory as “a November gift.”
“Republicans are quick to point out that the Carter campaign rooted for Reagan in 1980, and thought he’d be easy to defeat, too,” he continued. “Nonetheless, I have to say that more than a few Republican leaders are very nervous about Newt as the nominee. It’s not just his baggage. They think he’d say and do enough outrageous things before November to self-destruct, as he has done before. Again — maybe, maybe not. But it’s a risk, for sure.”
There has always been a tension inside Gingrich between “Good Newt,” the sometimes visionary and thoughtful Republican leader who transformed the political map during his time in Congress, and “Bad Newt,” the undisciplined and ego-driven politician prone to making erratic policy statements and alienating his colleagues.
Gingrich’s political history, Politico recently noted, is in many ways the story of this internal struggle. “Good Newt” led the GOP’s historic takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994 and forced President Bill Clinton to the political center. “Bad Newt” resigned from Congress five years later as one of the most unpopular public figures in American life.
This election season, “Good Newt” has clearly articulated an attractive conservative message in debates, while “Bad Newt” has already compared his stature to that of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, said his efforts in Congress helped lead to the collapse of Communism and declared that he will no doubt become the GOP nominee.
In addition, Gingrich’s colorful personal life — his multiple divorces and affairs, his work on behalf of special interests — would almost certainly become a major issue in a general election against Obama.
Veteran Republican strategist Mike Murphy, who has worked with Romney in the past but is staying unaffiliated this election, told TheDC that these factors make the White House “obviously very excited about the idea of Newt as the nominee.”
“It would be like winning the lottery for them,” he said.