Report: Newt set to back off Bain attacks on Romney?

ABC reported on this earlier, claiming that Gingrich was starting to take heat from his own donors about the Bain chatter, and now here’s Stephen Moore at the Journal claiming that Newt’s own advisors are getting uncomfortable. I can’t imagine why. Complaining about pressure from “extraordinarily wealthy institutions” is standard boilerplate in a GOP primary, no?

Coming soon, presumably: Newt starts a tent city in front of Romney HQ.

The buzz is getting stronger that GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will pull back on his planned $3 million ad campaign that accuses rival Mitt Romney of “looting” companies and ruining workers’ lives when he headed Bain Capital.

I’m hearing from Gingrich insiders that several top campaign brass want the former speaker of the House to withdraw the 28 minute ad — which has been universally panned by conservative leaders in recent days. Even Mr. Gingrich himself is said to be having reservations. But other senior advisors of the Gingrich Super PAC, Winning Our Future, want to continue full speed ahead. They dismiss complaints that the ad should be withdrawn and say doing so would only help the Romney campaign…

Some Gingrich advisors want to change tactics and use the Super PAC money — mostly donated by Las Vegas casino hotel owner Sheldon Adelson — to run positive TV ads on Mr. Gingrich’s economic growth ideas or to criticize Mr. Romney on issues such as healthcare and gay marriage.

In theory, Gingrich has no say over whether that anti-Romney movie disappears or not. It’s his Super PAC that’s running it, not the campaign, and legally they’re not allowed to formally coordinate. He could issue a statement saying that he hopes they remove it, but that would be bizarre now that he’s a spent a solid week pushing the anti-Bain attack himself. Sounds like, rather than abandoning it entirely, he’s going to finesse it a bit by shifting from an argument about corporate looters or vultures or whatever to an argument about crony capitalism and taxpayer giveaways to the rich. Which, actually, is also unfair to Romney but at least is in sync with the party’s anti-bailout orthodoxy.

I actually hope he sticks with the Bain attacks, not because I agree with them — even Huckabee, who once sneered that Romney looks like the sort of guy who’d fire you, is defending him — but because I’m curious to see how receptive the GOP base is to them in South Carolina and beyond. As Matthew Dowd said a few days ago, this ain’t your daddy’s Republican electorate:

While many still say the Republican party’s base is that of Wall Street and corporate America and big business, the real base of the Republican Party has become much more about working class (especially white males) in rural and small town areas of the country. This is where there is a great appeal of Sarah Palin’s and Ron Paul’s populist rhetoric attacking big government and corporate corruption and Wall Street excess. This is where a big part of the anger of the Republican Party is and of the Tea Party movement.

If the attacks on Romney related to Bain are done effectively and consistently and wrapped in a broader argument questioning his authenticity, it could really hurt him as he leaves New Hampshire and heads to South Carolina and then Florida. Those two stops on the nominating road could be problematic on the Bain issue because of their large segments of this angry populist vote.

For our grandfathers or our fathers this anti-Wall Street messaging might have fallen on deaf ears, but in today’s Republican Party there is a tremendous appeal to attacking excesses of both big business and big government.

If “creative destruction” is now anathema to Republican voters, we should try to find that out sooner rather than later so that the party can move left and start pandering appropriately, yes? Wouldn’t be the first case where ideological dogma breaks down once the rubber meets the road: In theory, the GOP is also opposed to Great Society statism, but good luck convincing Republicans of that when you poll them about cutting Medicare. If there’s now bipartisan consensus at the grassroots level that private equity is bad, even for a company whose record is as impressive as Bain’s, then we need to know ASAP. Look on the bright side: If Newt’s strategy works, it’ll spare us from nominating Romney, leaving us instead with a nominee who, as Rush Limbaugh put it, increasingly sounds like Elizabeth Warren. Progress.

Here’s Giuliani on Fox this morning sounding very un-RINOish indeed.