Newt Gingrich is not going negative. At least, that’s the line coming out of the Gingrich campaign. On stage Saturday, Gingrich did finally jab Romney in person. However, before that point Newt had responded to a slough of attacks from the Romney campaign by taking the high road, proclaiming that he would not use negative attacks against Romney. But it seems even then there was a bit of a loophole.
Today, a New York Times piece reveals Gingrich has been rebutting, even attacking, the Romney camp — he’s just been doing it anonymously. In an article last week in the Union Leader, a ‘senior Gingrich aide’ rebutted attacks from Romney surrogate and former governor John Sununu. According to The Times, however, that senior aide was in fact Newt Gingrich himself. According to Newt spokesman R.C. Hammond, the candidate didn’t want to be identified because he didn’t want to give the impression of getting into a fight with Romney’s campaign.
Talking to the Union Leader, the anonymous ‘aide’ countered claims by Sununu that Gingrich changed his mind when it came to the 1990 budget that included tax increases. In a long explanation, he laid out Gingrich’s history of opposing tax increases. The rebuttal turned a little nasty at the end: “Did Governor Romney favor the 1990 tax increase? Are we going to have a New Hampshire primary between the ‘no tax increase’ Gingrich and the pro-tax increase Romney? Is that the intent of Sununu’s comments?”
The incident brings into question Newt’s commitment to a dirt-free campaign. The quotes in the Leader were more of a rebuttal than an attack, but they offer a window into how the candidate apparently hopes to operate. Gingrich has a high-road message, but still intends to counter claims from the Romney camp. Moreover, his campaign’s positive image is so important to him that he doesn’t want to appear to be engaging with attacks in any way. In short, Newt wants to have it both ways. He wants to come off as completely clean while also responding to the Romney camp.
Politico decided to follow-up with the Union Leader, only to be strongly rebuked by editor Joe McQuaid, “I’m saying that I don’t know about POLITICO, or the New York Times, but the Union Leader does not disclose its sources. You got that?”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.