DOVER, NH –- As the nominating process continues and poll numbers remain in flux, Newt Gingrich is backing away from his positive-only campaign for president in an attempt to capture the Republican nomination before it’s too late.
“I was going to stay totally positive and the truth is, I did OK [in Iowa] considering the weight of advertising against me,” Gingrich told one of his largest crowds on the campaign trail Sunday evening in Derry. “Now, my conclusion has been to draw a much sharper contrast.”
The former House speaker, who finished fourth in last week's Iowa contest, was constantly attacked on the airwaves and in mailboxes throughout the Hawkeye State by GOP rival Mitt Romney and a pro-Romney Super PAC (plus by Ron Paul and Rick Perry to a lesser extent). But Gingrich, who in the past has been criticized for his lack of discipline, never hit back in any type of paid advertisements.
“I didn’t want to get into a dance where Romney would put up ad No. 1, I would answer it and they would put up ad No. 2, and I would answer it,” Gingrich told his audience at Pinkerton Academy. “And since he has vastly more money than I do, I would end up consistently using up all of my money telling you what’s wrong with those ads.”
But Gingrich, as well as a pro-Gingrich Super PAC, are going on the offensive now just days before the New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida primaries.
On Sunday night, Winning Our Future -- that Super PAC -- released a nearly three-minute trailer of its 27-minute film hitting Romney for being a “raider” while working for Bain Capital.
“Think you know Mitt? Think again,” the trailer for ‘When Romney Came to Town’ says. “For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town.”
Winning Our Future is expected to spend $3.4 million in South Carolina focusing on Bain.
Gingrich promised to “disown” any Super PAC that attacked his rivals on his behalf numerous times while campaigning in Iowa, but the former speaker says things have changed.
“Well, it turns out that there are some things when you describe them, they are negative. If you accurately describe some things that are negative, it’s pretty hard to draw a distinction there in terms of accuracy,” Gingrich said at a house party Monday morning.
The campaign itself has even started launching “contrast” attacks at the supposed front-runner for the nomination.
“This is not my first preference on how to run the campaign. As you know, I was having a great time being totally positive, talking about big ideas and big solutions and I would be glad to go back to that,” Gingrich acknowledged to reporters Monday. “But ... I don’t believe in unilateral disarmament, and I don’t believe that if the other person sets the standard of being very tough that you can back off or you look like you can’t defend yourself.”
At some point today, the campaign will release a new YouTube video laying out all of the tax increases Mitt Romney made while he served as Massachusetts governor.
And new site, NOTROMNEY.org, was launched Saturday by Gingrich citing the reasons that Romney is a moderate –- at least in the eyes of the former speaker. “Romney is not a conservative. Romney is not a Reagan Republican. Romney is not electable,” the flier on the site reads.
Television ad buys in both New Hampshire and South Carolina –- and likely Florida, too -– were made by the campaign to air a 30-second spot again contrasting Gingrich and Romney in similar ways.
“I’m not going to try and match the Romney campaign’s negative ads. I am prepared to say, I am a Reagan conservative; he is a Massachusetts moderate,” Gingrich said Sunday. “That seems to actually hurt almost as much as his ads.”
But it seems as Gingrich is growing “broad shoulders” to withstand the heat from Romney, the former speaker is dishing it back out there just on slightly different terms.
“That if you are faced with somebody who is determined to be negative, you have to at least draw a sharp and clear contrast so people understand who the person is running the negative ads. You don’t have any choice,” he said.