After spending days locked in a bitter fight with some conservatives over his attacks on Mitt Romney as a corporate raider, Newt Gingrich made it clear tonight that he wants to change the topic and get back to attacking Romney from the right. Calling Romney "too liberal for South Carolina," Gingrich told reporters Friday evening that over the next few days there are "going to essentially be, I think, three themes" of his campaign. Gingrich then made the case against Romney on abortion, guns, and taxes:
"The first is a clear contrast between the Romney record in Massachusetts and my record in the Congress. So, for example, all of you have now seen the ad we have on abortion where even after he said he was pro-life, he appointed pro-abortion judges. He has tax-paid abortion in Romneycare. He has Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, in Romneycare. The state actually helped build an abortion clinic. And he personally intervened to override his public health department, which was prepared to grant a conscience waiver to Catholic hospitals on the morning after abortion pill. And he intervened to say no they could not exercise conscience, which I think is a pretty remarkable position. These were all after he said he was pro-life.
"We're also going to draw a sharp contrast--I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment right to bear arms and have been recognized by the National Rifle Association for lifetime legislative achievement. By contrast, Governor Romney said he was comfortable with Massachusetts gun control laws. And he increased the taxes on guns in Massachusetts by 400 percent. I think in a state like South Carolina that's pretty definitive of who is the conservative and who isn't.
"Third is taxes. I fought tax increases by Romney, I mean Reagan, by Bush, and by Clinton. Governor Romney, by contrast, raised taxes about 730 or 740 million dollars. You can see all that at RomneyTaxes.com. And we'll be drawing that contrast."
Just for good measure, Gingrich added a fourth line of attack against Romney: his record on helping create jobs as an elected official. "It's clear in public policy that the two times I was engaged in helping create jobs, first with Reagan which led to 16 million new jobs and then as speaker with Bill Clinton which led to 11 million new jobs, the scale of job creation dwarfs his record in Massachusetts where his tax increases and his regulator approaches actually led them to rank 47th," he said.
Gingrich seemed to want to talk about anything but Romney's record at Bain. Yesterday, he tried to pivot away from the Bain attacks by claiming that some "so-called conservatives" have been criticizing him because he wants a full accounting of the Wall Street bailouts. (In reality, of course, Gingrich has been criticized for the Bain attacks, not his position on the Wall Street bailout.)
"All I said about Bain is he should explain it," Gingrich said Friday evening, following his appearance at a presidential forum with Rick Santorum. But what exactly was the connection between Wall Street and Romney? Gingrich's answer was more than a little murky. He told reporters that Romney is linked to Wall Street by his donors, but insisted he wasn't trying to somehow link Romney's Bain experience to Wall Street:
QUESTION: It seemed to be you’re sort of putting Romney with that group [bailed out financial institutions]. Are you saying that there’s no connection whatsoever?
GINGRICH: Well, if you look at your top ten donors, they’re all from Wall Street firms. I’m not saying that I’m putting him with them. But look where his money comes from. Look who’s paying for the ads. And I’ll let you decide.
QUESTION: Speaker Gingrich, were you trying to connect his experience at Bain to the Wall Street banks and the bailouts?
As he begins the week long-sprint toward South Carolina's January 21 primary, Gingrich is keeping all of his fire trained on Mitt Romney. When asked by a reporter to draw any contrasts between himself and Rick Santorum, his chief conservative rival in South Carolina, Gingrich declined. "I think my primary message is going to be about my background," he said.
But Gingrich did make the case that he has the best shot of stopping Romney. "If you look at the polling data, clearly, if conservatives are going to rally around one candidate, it's probably going to be me," Gingrich said. "And if they do rally around one candidate, it's clear Governor Romney will lose."