Before support for Gingrich coalesces, the other Republican candidates need to bring his campaign down to earth. He has no business being where he is in the polls, but the others have yet to mount an effective counter.
Here is how they do it.
Gingrich has many major vulnerabilities for a conservative Republican electorate. The candidates need to focus on just 3 so that the message gets through. My suggestions: his personal life; his desire to have social security and medicare "die slowly on the vine"; and his support, and lying about it, for Freddie Mac.
Because Gingrich is cynically employing "redemption" as a way to turn his sordid life into a positive for evangelical voters, the other candidates have to raise questions about that redemption. Because Romney already demonstrated in a face-off with Rick Perry that, even among conservatives, social security is sacred, Newt's desire to have it "die slowly on the vine" should be very potent. The Freddie Mac story has several vulnerable elements: he lied about it, hardly what a "redeemed" Christian does; he helped dissuade legislators from interfering with Freddie Mac, leading to the financial crisis; and, more generally, he is a shill for anyone who will pay him.
This is how I would divvy up the roles among this sorry cast of characters.
Romney should persist in discussing family values. The consistency theme he used in his ads do not work, but it does work for him to say that the President and First Lady need to be good role models not just about talking about values, but living them. He ought not allow Gingrich or the questioners to bully him into silence on this.
He should also take a shot at Gingrich for wanting social security to "die slowly on the vine". It was an effective ad used by the Clinton campaign in '96 because it was Dole and Gingrich, and Clinton ascribed it to Dole although it was Gingrich's voice. It worked for Romney against Perry -- and it would be good for Romney to link Perry to Gingrich in this respect -- and he ought to use it in the debate against Gingrich.
Finally, Romney ought to question whether anyone can be considered "redeemed" who lied to the American people just the last debate when asked about his role at Freddie Mac.
Huntsman should have many opportunities to pipe up in this debate. He should go after Gingrich for cozying up to Donald Trump, a man with no scruples, no family values, and who is a political buffoon, and state clearly that Donald Trump will have no position in a Huntsman Administration. That will make the moderator ask Gingrich whether, if he would serve, Gingrich would consider Trump for his Administration.
Huntsman is also the person to slam Gingrich for his Freddie Mac role. After laying out the relationship to the current financial crisis, Huntsman can use this to rally people behind his proposal to break up the big banks, finishing by stating that they could never trust Gingrich to do anything except what the big banks wanted him to do.
The Huntsman daughters should be unleashed -- they can probably do it all with a single video!
Bachmann should talk about "redemption", and try to sound intelligent about what it entails for a Christian. She should remind the American people that just a few months ago Gingrich was not talking redemption, he was making excuses, blaming his behavior in the 1990s on his being so worried about the country. If there is any place Bachmann can shine, it would be on this subject.
Perry should keep quiet, but he should second what Bachmann says about redemption.
Ron Paul should amplify what he has in his ads, indicating that Gingrich is an opportunist, has no principles except himself, and ought not to be believed as a conservative by Iowa voters. He should endorse what Huntsman said about the banks. He should tell Iowa voters that they do not need to hold their noses to vote as they would for Gingrich, that he has been a strict conservative his entire career.
Rick Santorum ought to portray himself as the young Gingrich without the baggage of a troubled personal life, infidelity, and the importance of the President and First Lady as role models.
All the candidates, and especially their SuperPacs, ought to go up on the air with "person-on-the-street" comments about not trusting Gingrich, that it is a bit too early for "redemption", he needs to live a life free of lies and sins first, that they cannot stomach his role for Freddie Mac supporting a big, government bank against the people of Iowa and making millions while others have lost everything. They should trot out the Clinton ads from '96 on Gingrich's wanting social security to "die slowly on the vine".
All the candidates ought to wonder aloud if the "values" and "faith" movement could survive if they nominate Gingrich.
And, they cannot expect an immediate impact. They have to keep at it.
If they do all this, Gingrich will be back down to the teens by the time of the Iowa caucuses.
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