GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich responded Thursday to a full-frontal assault on his conservative credentials -- launched by conservatives themselves -- claiming that it was an orchestrated effort by Romney surrogates to tarnish his Reagan-esque past.
"All of a sudden you have a handful of Romney supporters creating a totally fictitious version of the 1980's for one purpose: to try to prop up Romney," Gingrich said during an interview with CNBC's Larry Kudlow.
His comments followed the decision by a number of conservatives to subject Gingrich to another round of intense criticism, jamming a rod in the spokes of a campaign seeking to gain ground in Florida ahead of the state's primary next week.
The anti-Gingrich wave began early on Thursday, with conservative website the Drudge Report choosing to highlight a number of articles that countered Gingrich's frequent allusions to his supposed alignment with former President Ronald Reagan.
In one article, Elliott Abrams of the National Review paints Gingrich as a legislator whose rhetoric undermined Reagan's agenda to end the Cold War.
Peter Wehner of Commentary Magazine piled on this line of attack, writing that Gingrich's haranguing of Reagan was not that "of a 'loving critic,' to use a phrase from Madison. The former House speaker used words that were lacerating, extreme, and at times insulting."
In another column, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., of the conservative American Spectator lights into Gingrich, saying that he possesses the temperament and character traits of former President Bill Clinton -- minus the charm. He's not to be trusted, Tyrrell concludes.
Ann Coulter also got in on the pundit pounding, writing a column titled "Re-elect Obama: Vote Newt!," in which she argues that Gingrich is hobbled by his changing positions on issues fundamental to conservatives.
And media personalities weren't the only ones to join in. Some of Gingrich's former congressional colleagues also chose to unload on the one-time House speaker.
Tom DeLay, who served as majority whip during Gingrich's tenure as speaker, also used Clinton comparisons against Gingrich to cast doubt on his conservative ideology.
"What has been said about Newt is pretty much true," DeLay said during an interview with radio host Michael Berry on Texas' KTRH. "He had to step down because conservative Republicans wouldn't vote for him again as speaker."
"He's not really a conservative ... He'll tell you what you want to hear," DeLay continued. "He has an uncanny ability, sort of like Clinton, to feel your pain and know his audience and speak to his audience and fire them up. When he was speaker, he was erratic, undisciplined."
Former Kansas senator and 1996 presidential candidate Bob Dole also came forward with a personal beef, pointing out that Gingrich was so unpopular during his tenure as speaker that he served as effective fodder for Democratic attack ads. He predicted that a Gingrich nomination was a surefire way to ensure a landslide reelection victory for President Barack Obama.
Gingrich faced a similar flurry of criticism during his first surge to the top of the pack at the end of last year. Over a period of days in December, a cadre of conservative commentators brought out the knives on the presidential hopeful, writing a variety of columns that came to the same conclusion: Gingrich won't unify Republicans and can't beat Obama.
For a sampling of the previous barbs coming from conservatives, scroll through the slideshow below.
In a December 7 column, conservative pundit Ann Coulter wrote about Newt's history: Gingrich has spent his years since [his first year as Speaker of the House] having an affair, divorcing his second wife and making money by being the consummate Washington insider -- trading on access, taking $1.6 million from Freddie Mac and palling around with Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Al Sharpton. Even Chuck Schumer wouldn't be seen doing a joint event with Al Sharpton! But Newt seeks approval from strange places. Newt Gingrich is the "anti-Establishment" candidate only if "the Establishment" is defined as "anyone who remembers what happened the day before yesterday."
On December 10, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote about Gingrich's rapid rise in the Republican primary. "He is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, 'Watch this!'," she wrote.
According to The Hill, one Republican legislator who served with Gingrich in the House of Representatives said that "Newt's hand is always six inches from the self-destruct button."
Conservative columnist George Will shared some choice words about Newt in a December 2 Washington Post column. "There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich's unrepented role as a hired larynx for interests profiting from such government follies as ethanol and cheap mortgages," Will wrote.
In his New York Times column, David Brooks outlined why Newt "seems to have walked straight out of the 1960s." Gingrich, Brooks wrote, "has every negative character trait that conservatives associate with '60s excess: narcissism, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and intemperance. He just has those traits in Republican form."
Yuval Levin wrote about Gingrich's temperament on the National Review website: Gingrich has what you might call a revolutionary disposition: He has great intensity and energy. His mind is drawn to stark and diametrical distinctions; he expects change to occur through cataclysmic clashes and so seems always to be seeking after ways to accelerate the contradictions. This allows him to much more easily thunder over his own inconsistencies and past changes of mind. But he has no discipline whatsoever, can be almost unbelievably erratic and unfocused, and is unironically conceited.
In his December 8 Washington Post column, Michael Gerson wrote: And this indiscipline was not an aberration. It indicated an impulsiveness found elsewhere in his career. Gingrich has a history of making serious charges that turn out to be self-indictments -- witness his recent attack on congressional advocates for Freddie Mac, despite having been one of its well-paid consultants. Gingrich's language is often intemperate. He is seized by temporary enthusiasms. He combines absolute certainty in any given moment with continual reinvention over time.These traits are suited to a provocateur, an author, a commentator, a consultant. They are not the normal makings of a chief executive.
In a column comparing Mitt Romney and Gingrich, the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer said that "Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama's -- but, unlike Obama's, is untamed by self-discipline."
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough had kind words for Gingrich Jan. 19. Reacting to polls showing Gingrich gaining on Romney in South Carolina, Scarborough joked, "There are only going to be three species that survive the nuclear holocaust: cockroaches, Cher and Newt Gingrich. He keeps coming back!"