Newt Gingrich wrote a letter to supporters and surrogates yesterday urging them to “not contribute to any so-called SuperPAC that runs negative ads against any other Republican contender” hours before a SuperPAC called “Winning The Future” officially formed to buttress Gingrich’s candidacy. It took less than 24 hours for Gingrich to act on his words when Craig Berman, his political director in Iowa, resigned after The Iowa Republican website revealed that he had made anti-Mormon remarks during a focus group.
“Craig Bergman agreed to step away from his role with Newt 2012 today,” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said. “He made a comment to a focus group prior to becoming an employee that is inconsistent with Newt 2012’s pledge to run a positive and solutions orientated campaign.”
Hammond was referring to comments Bergman made in which he said, “A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon.”
In the letter Gingrich wrote to surrogates associated with his campaign earlier, the former Speaker emphasized his insistence on running a positive campaign.
“Since I announced my candidacy for President of the United States, I have made it clear that I intended to run a positive, solutions-based campaign,” Gingrich wrote. “There is no doubt, these are difficult times for our country. The American people deserve a respectful and constructive campaign that focuses on a vision for rebuilding the country we love.”
Gingrich continued, writing that “It is critical the Republican nominee emerge from this primary campaign un-bloodied, so that he or she can make the case against President Obama from a position of strength.”
“For these reasons I have refrained from launching attacks on my Republican opponents, though I have reserved the right to respond when my record has been distorted,” Gingrich said. “On Monday this occurred when Governor Romney and I engaged in what in diplomatic circles is called ‘a frank exchange’ over our respective records in the private sector.”
Gingrich was referring to comments he made that called for Romney to “give back all of the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain.” Gingrich then told reporters, “I’ll bet you $10–and not $10,000–but $10 that he won’t take the offer,” which was making fun of Romney’s $10,000 bet that he offered Perry during a testy exchange in a debate this past Saturday.
In his letter, it seems as if Gingrich was giving his surrogates leeway to defend his record and respond to attacks made on him so long as his surrogates did not initiate the negativity.
“I am instructing all members of my campaign staff and respectfully urge anyone acting as a surrogate for our campaign to avoid initiating attacks on other Republican candidates,” Gingrich said. “It is my hope that my Republican opponents will join me in this commitment.”
Winning Our Future director Becky Burkett believes that the SuperPAC can help Gingrich’s candidacy sustain the momentum that he has built.
“We are motivated by the fact that Americans must make the right choice next November at the ballot box or this great nation will not be recognizable,” Burkett said. “What is so exciting is that more and more Americans are beginning to realize that Newt Gingrich is the right choice and Barack Obama is the wrong choice. And so, we are proud to be part of an effort to enhance the momentum he has created.”
The SuperPAC’s website says Gingrich’s “track record of implementing tax cuts, reining in spending and balancing the budget is a fact, not fiction and makes him the best candidate by far to getting things done for our children, grandchildren, and the the entire country once he has dispatched the current resident of the White House” and adds that Gingrich’s “knowledge of critical issues, his successful experience, his focus on finding solutions and his vision of a country with greater prosperity and opportunities are the key reasons we believe in Gingrich”
Voters, especially those in Iowa, often tell pollsters that they do not like negative ads. But the sheer volume of negative ads indicates that they do have an impact.
In recent days, nearly every campaign, most notably Ron Paul’s, has explicitly and implicitly attacked Gingrich’s marital history, temperament, and association with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
If Gingrich keeps his word to run a positive campaign–and his actions last night suggest he will–it will be interesting to see if voters are more influenced by Gingrich’s positive campaign or his opponents’ negative ads against him.
With less than a month to go before votes are cast, voters, to date, are choosing Gingrich’s positive message over his opponents’ negativity, much in the same way many have overlooked and gotten past his many flaws to support his candidacy.