Mitt Romney’s campaign is pivoting to hit back at Newt Gingrich in response to a barrage of attacks from the former House Speaker regarding Romney’s record and tax returns.
On Wednesday, the campaign blasted Gingrich as an “unreliable leader,” rolling out surrogates to criticize his record as Speaker of the House during the 1990s.
Gail Gitcho, Romney’s communications director, said the campaign’s push was an effort to “distinguish” their candidate from Gingrich.
Romney holds a commanding lead in both states, but Gingrich’s move to second place could indicate he’s gaining traction from his consistent focus on Romney, the candidate he has identified as his main competitor in the Republican race.
In a conference call on Wednesday with two Romney supporters who served under Gingrich during his time as Speaker of the House, the Romney campaign unleashed its strongest criticism of Gingrich since his surge in the polls in early December.
Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) characterized their time serving in Congress under Speaker Gingrich as filled with uncertainty.
The first thing he had to do when he came into the office in the morning, Talent said, was “check to see what your leader had said that day that you’re going to have to clean up after.”
Molinari credited Gingrich for being a “big ideas guy” but warned, “Anybody else’s ideas were really not taken into account as we moved through his Speakership.”
She continued, “You need big ideas but you also need attention to details and follow-through, and clearly that was lacking.”
Molinari and Talent doubled-down on what they called a pattern of inconsistency extending from the 1990s to the current campaign, referring to Gingrich’s past advocacy for climate change legislation and opposition to Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget reform as well as his recent comments attacking Romney over his work with private-equity firm Bain Capital.
“Yes, he can say exciting things, he also says things that undermine the conservative movement and he says them in outrageous ways,” Talent said.
They emphasized that the Republican caucus removed Gingrich from his position as Speaker.
“It’s an extraordinary thing to remove a Speaker of your own party,” Talent said. “We can’t be in a situation where we have to hope he’s going to do something different than he’s been doing the last 20 years.”
In a new web video released by Romney’s campaign on Wednesday, Molinari states: “Newt Gingrich had a leadership style that can only be described as leadership by chaos. The decisions that he would make today would be different decisions tomorrow. And a lot of the problems came from sort of the discipline that he lacked in order to get the job done.”
Molinari also said that Gingrich was a factor in former President Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996.
“We do not want Speaker Gingrich to help re-elect another Democrat president,” she said.
Talent agreed, saying President Obama’s record needs to be the focus of the general election and it won’t be with Gingrich as the Republican nominee. “If the Speaker’s the nominee, he’s going to be the issue … his comments are going to be the issue,” he predicted.