So Much for Nice Guy Newt

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When I interviewed Newt Gingrich for our print edition a couple of weeks ago, he professed his intention to run a positive primary campaign:

Gingrich told me that, even now that he is surging in the polls, he has no plans to wage a slash and burn campaign to win the Republican nomination. Gingrich says that Ronald Reagan successfully ran a largely positive primary campaign in 1980, and that he can do the same: “Reagan didn’t spend much of his time in ’80 attacking anybody,” Gingrich said. “They all attacked him. That is sort of the model for me. What I am trying to do is talk about big solutions…. We have no intention of fighting with Republicans.”

Between his latest broadside at Mitt Romney this morning, and his counterattacks at Saturday night’s debate (all quite effective, I thought), that attitude appears to have gone by the wayside. In fairness, Newt is suffering a ferocious negative barrage on multiple fronts right now, and he’d be nuts to sit back and take it. But this promise never made much sense to begin with. Gingrich is among his generation’s most skilled practitioners of attack politics, dating back to his orchestration of a forty-year Democratic House majority’s ouster in the 1994 election, made possible by brilliantly savage attacks on Democratic corruption and abuse of power. For Newt to sheath his political scimitar would be like the U.S. going to war without its special forces.

P.S. See also the strange episode at the end of this Times story, in which Gingrich slammed one of his pro-Romney critics in the New Hampshire Union Leader with a quote attributed to “a senior aide in the Gingrich campaign.”