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Gingrich previews his general election fight against Obama

NEWBERRY, S.C. – Newt Gingrich made President Obama his only target in a town hall here tonight, describing what he believes would be a brutal general election fight against the president.  

“In January 2012, Gingrich-Obama campaign will come down to two questions: Can you endure the pain of four more years of radical incompetence, which would be my argument, and, can I survive the weight of negativity, smears, assaults and lies that they’re going to throw?” Gingrich said.

Speaking to a packed Newberry Opera House after a fundraising barbecue for the South Carolina Republican Party, Gingrich added that the Obama campaign is already attacking Republican candidates because the president can’t highlight his first-term record.

“Watch their first ambushes against Romney and ask yourselves this question: Why would a president of the United States run an attack ad in November before there’s even a Republican nominee? It’s because they’ve got nothing positive to say about three and a half years of failure.”

While the Democratic National Committee and pro-Obama Super-PAC Priorities USA (run by former Obama administration officials) have already begun to attack Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign itself has not, releasing its first ad, a direct appeal to voters from the president, today. 

Gingrich dared Obama to run a strictly positive campaign, saying it would greatly reduce his re-election chances, although Gingrich seemed uninterested in doing so himself, referring to the president as a “Saul Alinsky radical” at least three times during the town hall.

The twenty-year congressman and former House speaker’s criticism of Washington was not limited to the president, as he also slammed members of Congress for making insider trades, saying newly-elected members should have to keep their assets in blind trusts.

“It is so clear that they have so much power that there is no way to build trust in an environment where they can make money out of what they’re doing,” Gingrich said.

He also suggested that Congress’ record-low approval ratings are a threat to the country. “You can’t sustain freedom in a country where that level of contempt exists for one of the key institutions of self-government.”

Gingrich also criticized inside-the-Beltway political consultants, suggesting former President George W. Bush’s team could have had a bigger win in the 2004 re-election campaign if they had listened to Gingrich’s advice.

“In the summer of 2004 I wrote a paper for the Bush campaign arguing that [Democratic nominee John] Kerry was vulnerable to a catastrophic defeat,” Gingrich said, noting Kerry’s liberal voting record. “And I couldn’t get the consultants to agree to run a campaign based on ideas,” he added in remarks reminiscent of those he made after former campaign staffers resigned en masse in June.

“My campaign consultants understood 30-second attack ads,” Gingrich said on Fox and Friends on June 15th. “They didn’t understand you could actually write a book with big ideas and actually campaign talking about big ideas.”

Absent from his remarks tonight was any real criticism of Mitt Romney, although Gingrich generated attention for saying he is “a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney” during a radio interview with a Charleston station on Monday morning.