With New Hampshire primary day less than one week away, Team Newt is reloading in its all-out blitz against Mitt Romney, debuting a new ad criticizing the Granite State frontrunner's economic plan as "timid" and similar to President Obama's failed policies:
I'd expect Romney supporters to retailiate by pointing to a December Wall Street Journal editorial disparaging Gingrich's entitlement reform package in similar terms, while praising Romney's plan. But Newt & Co. are just getting started. A pro-Gingrich Super PAC is preparing to launch a series of attacks on Romney -- mirroring a tactic employed against Newt to devastating effect in Iowa, and about which he's complained bitterly. Meanwhile, Gingrich has reportedly floated the idea of forging a "non-agression pact" with Santorum, aimed at focusing the lion's share of criticism on the former Massachusetts governor. No word yet on whether the former Pennsylvania Senator has any interest in playing ball. This sparring will come to a head on Saturday night, when the six remaining GOP combatants will debate in Manchester on ABC News. As I've suggested before, it could end up being a popcorn-worthy event. Gingrich appears willing to self-immolate electorally if he thinks it'll help deny Romney the nomination -- all over the latter's apparently inexpiable sin of running effective ads about the former's past statements and record. Vendettas may not make for sound political strategy, but they certainly make for explosive viewing.
A new Union Leader poll largely reflects Suffolk's latest results, pegging Romney far ahead (47 percent), followed by Ron Paul (17 percent), Jon Huntsman (13 percent), and Rick Santorum (10 percent). On its surface, those results are very encouraging for Team Romney. Forty-seven percent represents his strongest showing to date in any NHUL survey. That being said, a huge element of politics is expectations management. If polls show Romney enjoying 25-30 point leads in several polls just six days out, but the final margin is strong but lower (say, 15 points), the vulnerablility narrative will get a shot in the arm. This could be a strange, paradoxical case of a lead being uncomfortably large:
Mitt Romney is flying high in New Hampshire in this final week of the campaign. Perhaps too high for his own good. With the latest New Hampshire polls showing him with more than double the support of his closest rival, Romney can't escape the expectation that he should not only win the first-in-the-nation primary next Tuesday, but that anything less than a double-digit victory margin would be an under-performance and a sign of weakness in what is supposed to be his stronghold, his catapult to the nomination.
Speaking of narratives, supporters of various candidates are feverishly spinning as the January sprint proceeds. Ann Coulter writes that Romney's win shows that Republicans are serious about beating Obama, Erick Erickson suggests that Rick Perry -- who stumbled through a drop out head-fake -- might still manage a heroic comeback, and a Ron Paul-affiliated group is running the most hilarious/offensive ad of the cycle against Jon Huntsman. Click through to watch the absurd and bigotry-laced web spot. Not that it matters much; if UNH's numbers are to be believed, the former Utah governor is heading for an epic flame-out in New Hampshire. I'll leave you with the latest from MoveOn.org, which previews one of the Left's lines of attack against a potential nominee Romney:
It's Ted Kennedy's 1994 campaign, reborn -- and it works hand-in-glove with Democrats' hardcore class envy strategy. It resonated in Massachusetts, but will it get the job done nationally? Maybe among young people (yikes), but I'd be willing to bet $10,000 (to pluck a number at random) that Team Romney is busy plotting rebuttal ads and tracking down people whose jobs were created by Bain Capital's largely successful investment strategies.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography