MANCHESTER, N.H. – Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took a not-so-veiled swipe at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Sunday, casting himself as the “normal, middle class” candidate fighting an uphill battle to compete in a system that he said allows the wealthy to effectively buy elections.
“I think that all of these election regulations have made it harder to be a middle class candidate, and have made it harder for middle class candidate to raise money,” Gingrich said at an Hispanic town hall meeting at the Don Quijote Restaurant in Manchester.
“We are drifting into a society where millionaires buy office, and it’s very dangerous,” the former speaker continued. “And I think when Mayor Bloomberg basically bought the mayorship, he drowned his potential opponents — he spent hundreds of dollars per vote. Now that’s just wrong.”
The comment was evidently aimed at Romney, who has poured millions of dollars into the race, and whose supporting super PAC spent a large amount of money running attack ads on Gingrich in Iowa. Gingrich has said repeatedly that these ads played a major role in his poor performance in the caucuses, something it appears he is still smarting over.
At the debate this morning, he went after Romney on the subject, saying, “I wish you would calmly and directly state it is your former staff running the PAC. It is your millionaire friends giving to the PAC.”
Gingrich has significantly less money than his front-runner opponent, as do the super PACs supporting him — a fact he has acknowledged in his stumping. At an anti-Romney town hall he held on Thursday, Gingrich told the crowd, “I don’t have their kind of money. But if I have you as supporters, I can have human beings who offset every vicious negative ad.”
To allow “normal, middle class candidates,” like himself, presumably, to compete more effectively with a millionaire candidate like Romney, Gingrich said, an election law should be passed that allows anyone to donate as much money as they wish to a campaign, as long as they report the sum that same day on the Internet.
“What would happen is normal middle class candidates would suddenly find that they could find fairly wealthy people who didn’t like the incumbent, and those fairly wealthy people could fund a really big campaign. And you would suddenly have equality between incumbents and challengers, and I think it would make for a much healthier system,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich also went after Romney for comments in the debate on Sunday that “you shouldn’t run if you have to win in order to pay your mortgage,” something Romney said his dad had told him when the elder Romney was running for governor of Michigan.
That, Gingrich said, is “the opposite of the American tradition, historically. We want everyday normal people to be able to run for office, not just millionaires.”