Guy Benson

The final hours of any campaign are frenetic, and the GOP presidential contest in Iowa is no exception.  Even as temperatures drop (tonight's forecast calls for clear skies and a low of 29 degrees), the candidates' rhetoric is heating up considerably.  Yesterday, Newt Gingrich vowed to pound away at Mitt Romney, and he's already fulfulling that pledge:
 


 

O’DONNELL: “You scolded Mitt Romney, his friends who are running this Super PAC that has funded that, and you said of Mitt Romney, ‘Someone who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president.’ I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?”

GINGRICH: “Yes.”

O’DONNELL: “You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?”

GINGRICH: “Well, you seem shocked by it! Yes. I mean, why –"

O’DONNELL: “Why are you saying he is a liar?”

GINGRICH: “Because this is a man whose staff created the PAC, his millionaire friends fund the PAC, he pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC – it’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth.”


Shorter Newt: "Romney's a giant, shameless liar -- but I'd totally support him over Obama."  Ed Morrissey reacts to Gingrich's provocative language:
 

Hey, not to rain on Gingrich’s parade, but how is that different than any other PAC or super-PAC?  I’m pretty sure that Gingrich-supporting PACs aren’t run by disinterested strangers, nor are those for Rick Perry or any of the other candidates in the race. ...As I’ve written earlier, there is nothing wrong with so-called “negative” campaigning. Candidates should draw contrasts between their positions and those of their opponents, and their records as well.  As long as that is being done honestly, there is nothing wrong or dishonorable about it; in fact, that’s why we have primariesGingrich chose to eschew that strategy and now wants to claim some kind of victimization because the rest of the field chose not to follow in his footsteps.  On top of that, Gingrich has descended to name-calling, which looks more like a dog-in-the-manger ploy than a way to gather support in the few short hours before Iowa voters trudge to precincts tonight.  A confident candidate wouldn’t have sunk to the level of this conversation the morning of a caucus.


I caught a discussion with Newt on Iowa's WHO 1070 AM this morning, and the host challenged the former Speaker over whether his own predicted loss in Iowa might demoralize his supporters.  The candidate's response was vintage Newt: "I was answering that question analytically, not as a candidate," he said.  That pretty well sums up Gingrich's unique appeal and weakness -- he's a keen and sharp analyst, but he doesn't always think about how his rhetoric might impact his own campaign.  Newt used much of his interview to discuss American history and lob shots at several of his competitors, especially Romney.  Interestingly, one of the storylines we've seen today is that the former Massachusetts governor has emerged from Iowa almost completely unscathed by direct television advertising attacks.  Perhaps those reporters haven't been listening to local radio.  Ron Paul's campaign ran a spot soon after the Gingrich interview absolutely hammering Romney, and Romney alone.  The commercial warned against Mitt's "liberal" agenda, calling his potential general election candidacy against Obama a "recipe for disaster."  Speaking of Paul, Rick Santorum is teeing off on one of his favorite debate punching bags over a series of controversial robocalls:
 

Rick Santorum blasted fellow Republican candidate Ron Paul as "disgusting" following a media interview Tuesday morning, blaming the Texas congressman for a series of robo-calls insinuating that the former Pennsylvania senator was both pro-choice and against the second amendment. "Ron Paul is disgusting," Santorum said, according to a Fox News producer.  Santorum and Paul have been locked in a three-way tie with Mitt Romney atop the Iowa polls heading into Tuesday's caucuses.


Newt also suggested that Paul would be an untenable Republican nominee:
 

Gingrich said that he would not vote for Paul if he became the eventual nominee, and that “the choice of Ron Paul or Barack Obama would be a very bad choice for America. I think it’s very difficult to see how you would engage in dealing with Ron Paul as a nominee,” Gingrich told CNN.


Saturday night's debate in New Hampshire will be intense.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography