NEW YORK -- The reaction among Republican presidential candidates to the payroll tax cut deal has been fairly muted, in large part because the process ended in such a dispiriting fashion for the party. On Friday, however, Newt Gingrich's campaign weighed in with a statement, in which it it described the leadership exhibited by the president and Congress as a "complete failure."
"We need a long-term plan for jobs and economic growth, not short two-month Band-Aids," Gingrich said. "We must move now to cut taxes, reduce regulations, fully utilize America's energy resources and take steps to stabilize the value of the dollar."
Putting aside the fact that Gingrich is adopting Mitt Romney's "Band-Aid" metaphor to describe a temporary extension, the statement is surprising in its condemnation of the chief negotiators. After all, on Wednesday, Gingrich was advising House Republicans to take the two-month deal and put their best face forward.
"Incumbent presidents have enormous advantages," he said on Wednesday. "And I think what Republicans ought to do is what's right for America. They ought to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily."
It isn't necessarily a direct contradiction to criticize GOP leaders for passing a two-month deal just days after encouraging them to accept it. Gingrich's ire is directed at the legislative process more so than the product. He is also placing at least part of the blame on the president. But it isn't exactly fair to pile on Congress members after they followed your advice.
Few people may understand the tension between base politics and party leadership responsibilities better than Gingrich. And clearly, he is calculating that conservatives continue to hate the deal even after it was passed and would have been willing to hold out for more.