So help me, news of this broke on Twitter within 10 minutes of this piece appearing at Politico. Second look at total campaign confusion?
Newt Gingrich signaled Wednesday that he believes his criticism of Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital is a mistake — and that he’s created an impression that he was echoing Democratic rhetoric…
“I’m here to implore one thing of you. I think you’ve missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses. I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenuous about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market. I think it’s nuanced,” Dean Glossop, an Army Reservist [and Santorum supporter] from Inman, S.C., said.
“I agree with you,” Gingrich said. “It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect. … I agree with you entirely.”
And yet here we are. Maybe he’s going for a tongue-in-cheek good cop/bad cop dynamic with his Super PAC where he pretends to back off the Bain bombthrowing even while the “independent” committee that’s supporting him keeps tossing grenades? One of his big critiques of Romney’s negative ads, remember, was that Mitt was able to farm them out to his Super PAC without putting his name to them, allowing him to throw mud in Newt’s face without getting his own hands dirty. When Romney was pressed on that, he noted that he’s barred by law from coordinating with any PAC; when he was further pressed on the fact that he could simply issue a public statement asking the PAC to lay off on Newt, he responded with … this. Presumably Newt will respond the same way when asked about today’s non-retreat retreat, but his spin will be tougher than Romney’s because he’s now all but admitted that he’s playing into Obama’s hands.
And by the way, when did he reach this sudden epiphany that it’s not smart to attack Romney on this? Here he was just a few hours ago in South Carolina:
Mr. Gingrich presented himself here as a voice for middle-class Americans who want “someone prepared to stand up to Washington and New York.’’
“This is not anticapitalism,’’ he insisted. “That is the smokescreen of those who are afraid to be accountable.’’
“I am for entrepreneurship,’’ he added, “but I am also for the American people’s right to understand how the games are being played: are they fair to the American people, or are the deals being cut on behalf of Wall Street institutions and very rich people.’’
Doesn’t sound like much of a retreat. Could be that Politico’s just overstating what he meant in his chat with that Santorum supporter — not that he’s going to stop talking about this but that it’s a bummer that that darned Obama will end up twisting an attack on Bain into a broader class-warfare narrative. We’ll probably know one way or another by the time of his next event in SC, so stay tuned. Exit quotation from Howie Carr: Newt’s morphed into “a butch Ariana Huffington.” Click the image to watch.
Update: A blast e-mail from Newt’s spokesman:
Newt 2012 released the following statement from Press Secretary R.C. Hammond responding to misleading reports on an exchange Newt Gingrich had with a voter in Spartanburg, SC regarding Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital (during which the phrase “I crossed the line” was never uttered from Newt, despite the headline from Politico):
“This issue at hand is neither about Bain Capital, private equity firms, nor about capitalism. It is about Mitt Romney’s judgment and character. It was Governor Romney’s decision to base his candidacy, in large part, on his background as a portfolio manager. Thus, it is entirely legitimate to ask questions about whether he is accurately presenting how he conducted himself during that career.
“Reports by the Wall Street Journal and others contradict Governor Romney’s claims that it was his goal at Bain Capital to make companies more successful. In fact, there were cases where Bain Capital made huge profits and left companies bankrupt. Further reports have cast doubt on Governor Romney’s claim that he was responsible for 100,000 jobs being created thanks to his work at Bain Capital.
“Instead of accepting the responsibility to answer questions about his business background, the Romney campaign is throwing up a smokescreen about an attack on capitalism. That’s just more pious baloney from Mitt Romney and his campaign.”
Emphasis mine. So the big point about this line of attack is that … Romney’s a liar? What was the point of the exchange Newt had with that Santorum supporter today, then?