ROCK HILL, SC — Newt Gingrich told me he’s not worried about the blistering attack by Rush Limbaugh on his recent rhetoric attacking how Mitt Romney got rich. As he works to coalesce the fractured anti-Romney vote in South Carolina, I asked him after an event here if he was concerned that criticism from conservative icons like Limbaugh — who said Monday that Gingrich “sounds like Elizabeth Warren” and is turning off his conservative base.
On his first stop since the New Hampshire primary, Newt Gingrich arrived here Wednesday morning to a press corps eager to hear more of his attacks on Romney. Gingrich basically steered clear of the tough stuff in a half-hour address to a 300 or so person crowd at a country club. He didn’t even mention Romney’s name. But afterwards, speaking to a press gaggle, he went hard after Romney again. And he shrugged off the fact that he’s increasingly moving into Limbaugh’s line of fire.
“I’m prepared to have people irritated on the right and the left,” Gingrich told me in the gaggle.
Limbaugh has been especially tough on Gingrich since he shifted his focus to Bain. Gingrich’s super PAC is expected to go hard after Romney’s business record, accusing Romney of laying off thousands to make a buck.
Rush is not happy about this. “You could have read this in an Occupy Wall Street flyer,” he told his audience Monday, according to Jon Ward. “The left could not improve on this.”
The dynamics in South Carolina are thus: Rick Santorum, Gingrich and even Rick Perry are expected to carve up the anti-Romney vote, leaving Romney with a glide path to another win and, probably, the nomination. Gingrich needs to coalesce these voters behind him to have a shot at beating Romney, and Limbaugh made it clear he doesn’t think going after Bain will help.
“Newt is not sounding like a conservative when he’s making these attacks,” Limbaugh said Monday. “He’s not giving people reason to vote for him. Trust me on this.”
I asked Gingrich how he intended to rally the right around him with Limbaugh going after him like this. Here’s his full answer:
I think the American people deserve to know things. I’m prepared to have people irritated on the right and the left, because I think the American people — we have gone through the longest, deepest recession since the Great Depression. We’ve had families dispossessed of their homes, we’ve had people who’s businesses have been closed. We’ve had banking rules that have been anti-small town, anti-independent bank, anti-home buying. And I think the American people deserve to know a lot more facts about how we got in the mess we’re in now and frankly if that makes some people uncomfortable, you know, I would examine why are they uncomfortable? I think the best example of free enterprise is to have honest accountability. And I am very pro-free enterprise, but I also believe in honesty and accountability.