Newt Gingrich, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not the most consistent surrogate. The former House speaker, whose presidential primary stump speech labeled President Obama the greatest “food stamp president,” re-emerged as a GOP surrogate Wednesday attacking Obama for dismantling welfare reform — Romney’s latest attack on Obama.
But even Gingrich admits that Romney’s attack ad might go too far.
In July, the Obama administration signaled that they would be willing to waive some requirements of the 1996 welfare reform law if states could come up with ways to increase work reintroduction by at least 20 percent. The Romney campaign has claimed the move guts welfare reform because the administration will waive the federal work requirements.
“Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job,” a Romney ad asserts. “They just send you your welfare check.”
But just hours after the Romney campaign sent out a statement by the former speaker accusing Obama of “undoing the act’s central concept of a welfare-to-work requirement,” Gingrich distanced himself from the language in Romney’s ad.
“I think if the ad makers had asked me I would have said, ‘This makes it possible,’ would have been a good way to enter into what it said,” Gingrich said in an interview on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” Wednesday night.
Gingrich went on: “We have no proof today, but I would say to you under Obama’s ideology it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing.”
This isn’t completely out of step with the Romney campaign’s own claims. Over the last few days, it has emphasized Obama’s opposition to welfare reform and the “culture of dependency” line emerged in one of Romney’s campaign speeches. Still, Gingrich’s comments don’t match Romney’s allegation that Obama has gutted welfare reform — as opposed to suggesting he would like to. Obama took “the work requirement out of welfare,” Romney said on the stump Tuesday. “That is wrong, if I’m president I’ll put work back in welfare.”
Though Gingrich opposes the administration’s actions, on Thursday he again based that opposition not on the administration’s actions but rather on assumptions about Obama’s “radical” worldview. Asked specifically to respond to the fact that the administration’s memo requires improved outcomes in putting people back to work on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Gingrich doubled down.
“I’ll give you a direct answer,” he said. “None of us believe them.”
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.