Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have been going at each other tooth and nail in recent days. And many in the GOP worry that it’s going too far, Politico
In the past week, you had former Massachusetts Gov. Romney trash-talking Gingrich for weak debate performances and former House Speaker Gingrich accusing his rival of insulting Jews and Catholics.
“In South Carolina, it started getting feisty both in the air wars and in the debates, and in Florida over the last week it has deteriorated from feisty to primal,” American Conservative Union chief Al Cardenas told Politico. “That doesn’t suit us well, and it’s not helpful to our general election chances.”
Republicans at the beginning wanted to “sniff out who would be a fighter and take it to the president,” said Cardenas, who previously was chairman of Florida’s Republican Party. “So there has been leeway in the electorate. But I think they’ve seen enough rounds to figure out they’re all tough enough to do it. We’ve seen enough; let’s turn back to the issues.”
Ace GOP strategist and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie is concerned, too. “I do think there is concern amongst a lot of Republicans that the nature of this debate has become counterproductive,” he told Politico. “I don’t think it’s something that won’t be overcome, but I’d say there’s frustration that [the campaign] is not more focused on the issues.”
Even feisty former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who favors an extended contest, has seen enough. “It diminishes the energy headed into the general,” she told Fox News
, saying the “process hasn’t been attractive to the electorate.”
All three of the mainstream candidates – Romney, Gingrich, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum – appear to be aware of the danger of going too far.
Gingrich officials say they understand it’s imperative to offer a “solutions-oriented” message and promise their man will deliver a group of speeches in February outlining exactly what he’d do as president. The former House speaker began that outline Tuesday night, detailing what he’d do on his first day in office. The list includes overturning the healthcare reform law and the financial reform law implemented in 2010.
In an effort at conciliation Tuesday night, Romney said, “A competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us, and we will win.”
As for Santorum, “We didn’t get into the melee of the negativism,” he said Tuesday night. “What we saw in the last few weeks and in the state of Florida is not something that’s going to help us and win this election. America does not want to get into a mud-wrestling match.”
But it will be difficult for Gingrich and Romney to resist the temptation to attack each other again. Romney eased his assault against Gingrich after the New Hampshire primary, and the result wasn’t pretty. Gingrich cleaned his clock in the South Carolina primary.
And Gingrich beat Romney among Republicans in Florida who are very conservative and strongly support the tea party movement, giving the former House speaker incentive to stay on the offensive against his opponent.
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