Newt Gingrich’s campaign staff are scratching their heads over the strongly-worded missive sent Gingrich’s way by Romney backer and ultimate Republican establishment figure Bob Dole Thursday.
“It’s got to be on the top 10 list of the weirdest things he’s ever written,” Gingrich spokesperson RC Hammond told TPM at a campaign event in Jacksonville, FL.
Dole, who first endorsed Romney back before Christmas, turned both barrels on Gingrich in a long statement today.
“I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich,” Dole’s statement began, “but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late.”
Dole went on to blame Gingrich in part for the losses the GOP suffered in the 1996 Congressional elections. He said the constant stream of Democratic ads featuring Gingrich “did not help me” in the presidential race against Bill Clinton.
Dole also seemed to join in the talk about Gingrich’s weird, erratic behavior, which has become a centerpiece of Romney’s attacks on him with days to go before the Jan. 31 Florida primary.
He told this story in his statement suggesting that Gingrich is a little odd:
Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty ice-bucket in his hand—that was a symbol of some sort for him—and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it.
Back in 1996, Gingrich touted his elimination of daily ice deliveries to members’ offices as a hallmark of his Speakership’s goal of reducing waste in government. He carried the bucket around as a symbol of that effort. Hammond said it was strange that Dole would find fault in it.
“They were still — under Bob Dole’s leadership, mind you — delivering a block of ice every day to Congressional offices like it was the 1800s,” he told TPM. “Newt said that’s a dumb idea and we should stop. Bob Dole thinks cutting spending is a very weird thing.”
Dole’s tough statement is part of a general trend from establishment figures to rally around Romney and attempt to put an end to Gingrich’s campaign. For his part, Gingrich has welcomed the attacks from the establishment right, using them to position himself as an outsider and make a grab for the mantle of Ronald Reagan, who Gingrich likes to remind people was not very popular among the establishment before he won his party’s presidential nod.
Gingrich supporters in the political world don’t seem to think the steady stream of attacks from people like Dole will have much of an impact on the fired-up, tea party vote Gingrich is counting on.
“Governor Romney isn’t strengthening his case to conservatives by touting endorsements by two moderate Republican presidential nominees who both lost their elections— Senator McCain and Senator Dole,” one Gingrich-supporting DC operative told TPM. “I think conservatives take the endorsement of Michael Reagan, President Reagan’s son, and Governor Perry more seriously, as they better align with views like their own.”
Benjy Sarlin contributed from Jacksonville, FL