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Pro-Romney ad is frontal attack on rival Gingrich

By Beth Fouhy
Associated Press / December 9, 2011
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NEW YORK—TITLE: "Smiling"

LENGTH: 60 seconds.

AIRING: In Iowa

KEY IMAGES: A still image of President Barack Obama, paired with a news story suggesting the Democratic president's campaign planned to "destroy" Republican Mitt Romney.

"Why is this man smiling?" a woman's voice in the ad asks. "Because his plan is working. Brutally attack Mitt Romney and hope Newt Gingrich is his opponent."

A series of still images of Gingrich, the former House speaker, begins.

"Why? Newt has a ton of baggage," the ad says. "Like the fact that Gingrich was fined $300,000 for ethics violations or that he took at least $1.6 million from Freddie Mac just before it helped cause the economic meltdown. Then there's the $37 million Gingrich took from health care and industry groups.

"And on the issues? Newt's been on all sides. He supports amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. Gingrich even teamed up with Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore on global warming. And Newt was a longtime supporter of a national health insurance mandate, the centerpiece of Obamacare. Maybe that's why George Will called Gingrich the least conservative candidate.

"The Gingrich record? Thirty years in Washington flip-flopping on issues. Check the facts at NewtFacts.com."

ANALYSIS: The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future delivers a frontal attack on Newt Gingrich, who has surged into the lead in many Iowa polls. The ad is a kitchen-sink compilation of the problems and controversies Gingrich has faced over his long career in Congress and later as a well-paid consultant to industry groups in Washington.

It's true that President Barack Obama and his allies have been trying to weaken Mitt Romney for months, believing he was likely to be the Republican nominee. Prominent Democrats have relentlessly criticized Romney as a flip-flopper on issues like abortion and climate change, and the Democratic National Committee has produced some scathing Web videos.

Still, suggesting Gingrich's surge is the result of an Obama "plan" is a bit of a stretch. After his campaign nearly imploded last summer, Gingrich has delivered a number of strong debate performances and sharp anti-Obama rhetoric that has led Republican voters to reconsider his candidacy.

In 1997, the Republican-controlled House voted overwhelmingly to reprimand Gingrich on ethics charges and ordered him to pay a $300,000 fine. It was the first time a House speaker faced such punishment. The charges stemmed from allegations he had taught a college course financed by charitable donations to promote his political agenda. Gingrich acknowledged at the time he had brought dishonor to the House.

Gingrich has defended his relationship with Freddie Mac amid the disclosure that he was paid $1.6 million to advise the federally backed mortgage giant from 1999 to 2008. He said the money did not go personally to him but was paid as a consulting contract to his business.

Freddie Mac has become a target of scorn for many conservatives who believe it played a central role in the collapse of the housing market in 2008. Gingrich has criticized the agency and said he was paid for his advice as "a historian."

The Washington Post reported in November that the Center for Health Transformation, a think tank Gingrich founded in 2003, had taken in $37 million in dues and fees from health care interests. Gingrich has said the group worked on developing conservative approaches to making health care more efficient and affordable, and that neither he nor anyone at the think tank did any lobbying.

There are other Gingrich positions that give some conservatives pause, including his recent assertion that he opposes deporting people who have been in the country legally for many years and have families here. That has sparked complaints that he advocates amnesty.

Gingrich also teamed with Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi to tape a commercial promoting the need to find solutions to climate change. He now calls it one of the worst decisions he's made. And while he says he opposed so-called cap-and-trade legislation to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases, he has not fully repudiated his belief that human activity has contributed to global warming. Many conservatives believe climate change is an unproven theory and resist any efforts to regulate carbon emissions.

Gingrich says he opposed an individual mandate to buy health insurance. But he did support the concept until recently, as did many conservatives who promoted it as an alternative to then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's proposed health care overhaul in the early 1990s. The individual mandate is the centerpiece of Obama's health care overhaul, which many conservatives loathe. It also formed the basis for Romney's Massachusetts health care plan.

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