As promised, Newt Gingrich is finally going negative on Mitt Romney. He’s become the Terminator — no, wait, the Newtinator. Does Gingrich hit Romney on RomneyCare and the mandate? Er, no, that might not be a good comparison, considering Gingrich’s past support for a mandate. How about Romney’s support for global-warming activism? No, it might be a little difficult to properly couch that argument. How about hitting Mitt Romney on his economic plan? Yeah, go after him for being too timid:
You know, there are a lot of conservatives who like to think that no one’s swinging at Romney — which hasn’t been true at all. Most of the field have taken their swings at Romney, but it just hasn’t been effective. Gingrich himself went after Romney in the debates after getting to the top of the polling heap in mid-November, but Romney weathered it pretty well. Gingrich is the one who got damaged by attacking Romney’s experience at Bain as some sort of shameful exercise when it was a perfectly normal function of venture capitalism, and Gingrich probably won’t get too much cheering for knocking Romney’s wealth while hauling in $1.6 mil for being a consultant on history for Freddie Mac.
This effort won’t cheer on the conservatives who wanted Gingrich to take the gloves off with Romney. It’s just a wee bit timid after the bluster this week from Gingrich on getting even with Romney for outboxing him in Iowa.
On the issue of griping over super-PACs, Politico points out that Gingrich was a big fan of them in the wake of the Citizens United ruling:
Not long ago Newt Gingrich seemed to be a big fan of super PACs.
The former House Speaker two years ago called the new legal framework that gave rise to unlimited fundraising by outside groups a “great victory for free speech” and predicted that the biggest of the recent federal court decisions deregulating campaign rules would make “it easier for middle-class candidates to compete against the wealthy and incumbents.”
Then he got a taste of the new rules in Iowa.
After weeks of withering attacks by a super PAC supporting his rival Mitt Romney, Gingrich won’t stop talking about the injustices of unchecked spending — specifically the $3 million spent attacking him. He even coined a name for it, saying he got “Romney-boated” by his chief opponent’s “millionaire friends.”
Though Gingrich says he still supports the court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, his shift in attitude illustrates the difficulty that the free-wheeling big-money election landscape can pose for politicians — even, and perhaps especially, conservatives who philosophically oppose campaign rules as restrictions on free speech.
Super-PACs are a problem — but they’re the result of campaign-finance regulation, not a reason for more of it. The problem with campaign finance regulation is that it separates candidates from the responsibility of the messages that get published. The way to clean up campaigns is to remove the artificial barriers and categories created by byzantine campaign finance laws and allow for unlimited — but entirely and immediately transparent — donations directly to candidates. Then, eliminate the tax deduction for political contributions to campaigns and to independent political groups, which will kill the effectiveness of those independent groups and force candidates to answer for their own arguments, without resorting to laws that regulate when you can and cannot engage in political speech, which Citizens United rightly quashed.
If Gingrich wants to propose that solution, that would be … bold. But griping that someone else’s supporters are meanies while sticking to the law that he supported is just a tad bit too much victimization for my taste.