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ę Jennifer Rubin: The Mouth of Sauron Romney | Main | New Bachmann Ad Targets Every Rival (Except Santorum, Huntsman, and Johnson) Ľ
November 18, 2011

Interesting: Can Anyone Attack Gingrich At The Debates?

Because Gingrich is now a front-runner, you'd expect him to be on the receiving end of attacks by other candidates, as all previous front-runners were.

But will anyone?

Captain Ed considers:

The other reasons pertain to specific qualities and skills Gingrich has in debates. He has a much better grasp on policy and data than most of the other candidates on stage, which means that attacking Gingrich entails a considerable risk of looking ignorant and ill-informed when he responds. Perhaps more importantly, Gingrich has been very disciplined in debates this year, mostly refraining from attacks on other candidates. Only Ron Paul has had fewer (7 to Gingrichís 8, and Cain next at 9), and that could be a function of getting less air time in a couple of recent debates. Itís difficult to come off well when attacking the one candidate who had professed the need for party unity and who consistently lauds the qualities of the other candidates on stage; in fact, itís easy to look churlish and ungracious.

Those are good points. If you attack Gingrich, he's going to attack you back, and he is very good in this format. Does anyone have the guts to do it?

Bachmann does, I think.

The other thing is that Gingrich has really done a clever makeover, from Mean Mister Mustard to The Sun King. He's unfailingly complimentary towards his fellow candidates -- and was so even when he was so far behind them he couldn't even see them. (By the way: Kudos to Gingrich's political guess here. This seemed like a sure loser strategy -- how can you advance from behind when you never, ever take a shot at the leaders? In fact, it was so ill-calculated to win the nomination I suspected, with Ann Coulter, he really wasn't even running for the nomination, but just to keep his profile "pop culturally relevant," as a DC sage once said. But now it looks... well, pretty damn clever. All that was needed was a huge amount of dumb luck.)

How do you attack the guy who's actually defended you from media attacks in the past?

I suppose the only way to do this is to be very complimentary towards Gingrich yourself while, nevertheless, pointing out deviations from conservative economic doctrine.

But you can't imply, for example, he was corrupt in working for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. After all the Nice Newt performances, that would backfire badly. You have to keep it only on policy, and ideology, and in the most respectful terms possible, as a personal matter.

Plus, if you gin up the compliments towards Newt (while skillfully questioning his conservative bona fides) you reduce the chance that he'll feel comfortable gutting you in return.


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posted by Ace at 02:13 PM

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