Gingrich Instructs Team Not to Attack Romney

Gingrich Instructs Team Not to Attack Romney

By Erin McPike - December 1, 2011

New GOP presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich, anticipating an attack from fellow contender Mitt Romney, has instructed his campaign staff and advisers not to respond in kind to the former Massachusetts governor, RCP has learned.

According to Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond, “In response to the dynamics over the last 24 hours about the attacks coming our way, his instructions to us were to not say anything bad about Mitt Romney.”

Hammond explained that the campaign has received inquiries about how it will respond to attacks on Gingrich, given the searing Web ad Ron Paul’s operation has released and a reading of the “tea leaves” regarding Romney. And so, in the course of the campaign’s regular morning conference call Thursday, Gingrich told his staff and advisers to keep the focus on a forward-looking campaign and President Obama.

In essence, that means Gingrich will be stealing from longtime putative front-runner Romney’s own playbook: Act like the nominee for the general election; don’t engage intraparty rivals; and prepare to be seen as the next president.

As one informal adviser familiar with the call put it, “Newt instructed his team . . . to remain focused on what obviously has resonated: Voters want a nominee who can go toe to toe with President Obama on issues and substance. So Newt will continue to talk about how lower taxes, less regulation and pro-growth policies that will permit Americans to create real jobs. Negative attacks on fellow Republicans will not create a single new job or help rebuild America.”

The adviser continued: “Romney's consultants clearly did not expect they would face the one conservative in the primary who actually has a strong record of economic accomplishment. Newt believes the economic recovery will begin in November on election night when it's clear that Barack Obama is packing for Chicago. The Gingrich campaign has a different approach than some other Republican campaigns: Newt Gingrich has only one opponent -- Barack Obama.”

Hammond explained that the campaign has had that focus all year long, and that it is just coming to light now that Gingrich has emerged as a top contender for the nomination.

But he also said that given the support now beginning to coalesce around the former House speaker, Gingrich’s longtime informal advisers are starting to work for the campaign and help out in the absence of a bigger organizational machine. Many of those informal advisers came of age during the Reagan administration and favored Mitch Daniels earlier in the cycle, but now are joining Gingrich’s effort. As Hammond put it: “They, like people who’ve been shot at, know how to shoot back.”

There has been some talk in the upper rungs of Gingrich’s team that a plan needs to be developed to take the campaign all the way to the Republican National Convention in August, should the primary not arrive at a clear nominee after the early-voting states.

As one Gingrich confidant put it to RealClearPolitics, “Don’t you think Newt would find that ironic? He’d love it.”

Hammond termed it this way: “We are planning on being in Tampa. Obviously we have to get through some primaries and caucuses to see what the delegate situation is. We’re assembling our organization, and we have a team that is assigned to everything after Florida. We have the resources to do that. We’re certainly ready to play football, and we’ve had a media consultant who has been working on this since June.”

He continued: “We’re growing in size and scope very fast. Newt taught us over the summer how to function efficiently under his parameters and prepared all of the younger team how to be managers and deployed them into the field.”

Part of that team is likely to include the cadre of political counselors Gingrich has become close to in his more than three decades in Washington. Now that he has jumped to the front of the GOP field, Gingrich is beginning to tap those sources to form a greater organizational network of support. 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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