Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has vowed to do everything he can to torpedo Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He wants revenge for the negative ads that Romney forces heaped on Gingrich in Iowa and that led to his dismal fourth-place finish in the GOP caucuses.
Gingrich, of course, was no slouch at vilifying Democrats during his rise to power back in the mid-1990s, when he urged Republicans to define their opponents as “permissive,” “pathetic,” and “traitors.” Now, the indignant former lawmaker is complaining that he was slimed by $3.5 million in TV ads aired in Iowa by a pro-Romney Super PAC. The “gotcha” style ads reminded voters that Gingrich had been fined by Congress for ethics violations and that, as a high priced Washington political consultant, he has “more baggage than the airlines.”
Gingrich has called Romney a “liar,” a tepid politician, and a moderate masquerading as a conservative who should be ashamed of himself for allowing such dishonest ads to be aired. “He’s not a conservative,” Gingrich said last week. “It’s a joke for him to call himself a conservative. It’s a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit.”
The Gingrich-Romney spat is shaping up as a pretty good political blood feud – although for now it doesn’t seem to be slowing down Romney in New Hampshire or South Carolina – nor is it likely to end up in the pantheon of political feuds.
“It depends on whether either one becomes president--and whether this is just phase one of the feud or the entire package.” says Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political analyst. “If this is all there is, Romney-Gingrich will rate relatively low compared to the others. Then again, I want to see whether Newt goes nuclear, as he is capable of doing. A highly memorable video clip [on the order of Gov. Rick Perry’s "oops" moment) would elevate it.”
For sure, there have been plenty of other nastier or more momentous fueds over the decades that have become part of American political lore.
One good one flared up four years ago, and involved Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who currently is surging in the GOP presidential campaign.
Back then, Santorum endorsed Romney over McCain for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, even though Santorum had served with McCain for 12 years in the Senate. Making matters worse, Santorum recorded campaign robocalls saying that McCain, a highly decorated Vietnam War era pilot and prisoner of war, lacked the “temperament and leadership ability” to be president. McCain went on to win the nomination, but he never forgot the slight.