Although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appeared cool and collected during the relatively mild Republican presidential debate Saturday night as he sparred with new GOP front-runner Newt Gingrich, New Hampshire Union Leader Publisher Joseph W. McQuaid opines that Romney is indeed growing desperate — and is at least tacitly allowing his surrogates to take off the gloves.
“Mitt Romney has thought himself so close, for so long, to finally grabbing a presidential nomination that he is now desperate as his ‘front-runner’ status slips away,” McQuaid writes in an Op-Ed column in today’s Union Leader
. “Desperate men do desperate things.”
|After former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney attacked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a “career politician” during the Republican presidential debate Saturday night in Des Moines, Iowa, Gingrich responded: "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is because you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994." (AP Photo)
According to coverage of the Romney-Gingrich battle on the news pages of the Des Moines Register this past week, Romney is standing behind the scathing remarks made by two of his top backers about Newt Gingrich.
“I fully support John Sununu and his support and Jim Talent and the other people,” Romney said after meeting with the Register’s editorial board.
On Thursday, Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor, told reporters during a conference call arranged by the Romney campaign that Gingrich had undermined the Republican Party agenda with comments that have been “self-serving [and] anti-conservative.”
Former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri also was on the call, during which he alleged that Gingrich has said “outrageous things that came from nowhere.” Furthermore, Talent called the former U.S. House speaker unreliable and untrustworthy.
At first, Romney shrugged off the Sununu-Talent attacks with, “My views are going to focus on the distinctions we have on issues. As for comments of other folks who are supporting me, I don’t write those scripts for them.”
However, when the Register asked later whether he was distancing himself from Sununu’s comments, Romney answered: “Oh, no, no, no. I fully support John Sununu and his support, and Jim Talent and the other people. Everybody says things in their own ways. I’m focusing on the distinctions between Newt Gingrich with regards to Medicare, the Paul Ryan plan and my own plan. That’s what I’m focusing on. No, no, I’m very pleased to have John Sununu’s support and his outspoken effort on my behalf.”
However, McQuaid’s editorial today, following his newspaper’s endorsement of Gingrich two weeks ago, digs beneath the layers and suggests that Romney not only is fully on board the Sununu attack wagon but also has climbed on knowing full well that Sununu may have deeper motivations for his Newt vitriol than a glowing admiration for Mitt.
As McQuaid puts it:
“Enter John Sununu, former White House chief of staff to George H.W. Bush. As revealed last week, Sununu has been nursing a 20-year-old grudge against Newt Gingrich. Why? Gingrich refused to go along with Sununu and others who engineered Bush's infamous breaking of his ‘read my lips, no new taxes’ pledge. Breaking that pledge caused Bush to lose the White House to Bill Clinton.”
“It may be understandable for Sununu to want to ‘get Gingrich’ over this. But it is nearly incredible that Romney would allow himself to be talked into supporting it,” charges McQuaid. “What a way to remind voters, already highly skeptical of his reliability, that Mitt Romney is aligned with the Bush-Sununu gang that broke the pledge and raised our taxes.”
McQuaid concludes with: “Again, desperate men do desperate things. Romney's excuse that he doesn't “write the scripts” in which Sununu and his other surrogates are now viciously and personally smearing Gingrich is laughable. He clearly approves. New Hampshire voters had better brace themselves for what Romney may do next.”
For his part, Sununu makes no bones that he remains irked by what he says was a Newt betrayal decades ago.
Sununu reportedly told the Granite Status newspaper that, 21 years ago, then-House Minority Whip Gingrich reneged after telling then-President George H.W. Bush that he approved of the 1990 budget agreement with Democrats that included tax increases. Sununu was Bush’s chief of staff at the time.
A Gingrich spokesman has denied Sununu’s version and said Gingrich never agreed to the deal.
In a separate interview with the Granite Status, a former senior Gingrich aide of the era did not specifically say whether Gingrich had agreed to the deal at any point. However, the aide acknowledged that things were “represented” to Gingrich by Sununu and other Republicans about the deal, which, “when checked, turned out not to be accurate.”
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