TITLE: "What Kind of Man?"
LENGTH: 1 minute
AIRING: On broadcast and cable stations in Florida.
KEY IMAGES: The ad begins with footage of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran against Romney in the 2008 GOP presidential contest, talking into the camera. "If a man's dishonest to get a job, he'll be dishonest on the job," Huckabee says.
Downbeat music starts playing. A narrator intones darkly as a blurry image of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney slowly comes into focus. "What kind of man would mislead, distort, and deceive just to win an election?" the male voice asks. "This man would. Mitt Romney."
As a series of photos of Romney from recent debates flash across the screen, a bright red "false" stamp flashes across a different picture of Romney, who appears pained.
"Romney said he has always voted Republican when he had the opportunity," the narrator says. "But in the 1992 Massachusetts primary, Romney had the chance to vote for George H.W. Bush or Pat Buchanan but he voted for a liberal Democrat instead."
The narrator continues: "Romney said his investments in Fannie and Freddie were in a blind trust. But as reported in the National Journal, Romney earned tens of thousands of dollars from investments NOT in a blind trust. Romney denied seeing a false ad his campaign used to attack Newt Gingrich. But Romney's own campaign paid for the ad ... Romney's own voice is on the ad approving the content.
"If we can't trust Romney in a debate, how can we trust him on anything?"
As the final line is read, a picture of Romney with his head bowed appears with text next to it that is superimposed over a shot of the White House. It reads, ".... and that's why he would lose to Barack Obama."
The ad signs off with "Paid for by Newt 2012."
ANALYSIS: From disappointing losses in Iowa and New Hampshire to a soaring victory in South Carolina, the level of vitriol in Gingrich's attacks on Romney has waxed and waned. After scaling back his barbs in two debates, Gingrich has seen his numbers slip. Opinion polls show a close race in Florida, with a slight advantage for Romney. This ad dramatically escalates Gingrich's attacks on Romney.
It is by far Gingrich's sharpest, most personal attack on the former Massachusetts governor to date. "What Kind of Man?" also seems to signal that Gingrich will fight bitterly for the GOP nomination.
The ad curiously begins with Huckabee, currently a TV personality and popular conservative Republican figure. Gingrich may be hoping to remind viewers that, at least four years ago, Romney's fellow presidential aspirants could barely contain their anger at him. Huckabee hasn't endorsed in this year's contest.
The former Arkansas governor quickly disputed the use of his image in the ad. In an interview on Fox News Channel's "Your World," Huckabee said he was not referring to Romney specifically in the footage and did not approve of Gingrich's use of the footage in the ad. Huckabee said he would "love for him" to pull the ad because he hasn't endorsed anyone in the primary.
As a narrator takes over, the ad makes a series of claims that Romney could justifiably dispute.
It alleges that Romney voted for Democrats when he could have voted for Republicans. While this is technically true of the 1992 Massachusetts primary, Romney has said repeatedly that he was a registered independent so he could have more influence in a state where Democrats typically dominate. Romney has maintained that he has always voted for Republicans in general elections, and voted in the Democratic primary so he could vote for a weaker candidate and improve the GOP's chances.
As Gingrich's ad asserts, National Journal did report that Romney's investments in mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not in a blind trust. And Romney's personal financial disclosure forms show he owned between $250,001 and $500,000 in the Federated Government Obligation Fund, which contained mutual-fund notes of politically sensitive Fannie and Freddie. An addendum to Romney' disclosure forms says certain assets, including the federated fund, were outside the scope of his blind trust. The investment was not on Romney's 2007 financial form, making it a relatively new one coming just as the housing and financial crises were hitting Americans full force.
Romney and his campaign have, nonetheless, denied that he had any knowledge of his large investment in the fund.
The final factual claim, that Romney says he had no knowledge of an ad from his campaign against Gingrich, is true. Also true is that Romney's voice can be heard at the end of the ad, approving its message. But there is no way to determine whether Romney saw the ad before his campaign put it on the air.
Beyond the ad's specific claims, Gingrich has chosen to take an unusually personal tone that effectively calls his opponent untrustworthy and a liar. That's a sign both of Gingrich's frustration and the high stakes. Both Gingrich and Romney believe a Florida victory could catapult them to the Republican nomination.
The ad is also a variation on a theme Gingrich has tried to push about Romney. Gingrich's campaign wants voters to see Romney as a flip-flopper and someone who will say anything to get elected. But this ad is stripped of even a patina of civility.
As Romney has done before him, Gingrich also raises the specter of a second term for President Barack Obama as the consequence of voting for his opponent. Both candidates seem to be talking past each other on the issue of electability. In Iowa and New Hampshire, Romney was viewed by voters as more electable. In South Carolina, where Gingrich jolted the race with a victory, he was viewed as the candidate with the best chance of beating Obama.
One thing both campaigns seem to agree on is Obama's effectiveness as a bogeyman in GOP primaries.
Follow Henry C. Jackson on Twitter: (at)hjacksonap