WASHINGTON -- On the same day that the Mitt Romney campaign launched an offensive to blunt the rapid rise of Newt Gingrich as a legitimate GOP presidential candidate, a super PAC backing Romney appears to have accidentally posted a harsh new advertisement attacking Gingrich.
The ad, issued by Restore Our Future and set to run in Iowa, targets Gingrich for supporting "amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants," working with Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore on global warming, and supporting a national health insurance mandate. It ends with a quote from a recent article by conservative columnist George Will, calling Gingrich "the least conservative candidate" and describing him as having spent 30 years in Washington flip-flopping on the issues. The ad was originally available on YouTube Thursday night, but was quickly taken down.
The ad also implies that the Obama campaign's non-stop attacks against Romney are being used only to ensure that Gingrich wins the primary.
Restore Our Future's line of attack closely resembles the strategy in a Thursday morning conference call with reporters, held by surrogates for the Romney campaign.
"The speaker's running as a reliable and trustworthy leader. And what we're here to say with reluctance, but clearly, is that he's not a reliable and trusted conservative leader, because he's not a reliable or trustworthy leader," Jim Talent, a former senator and congressman from Missouri, said on the call.
"Lifelong Washington insiders can't fix the mess they helped create," Romney campaign spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said.
There are certain limits to coordination between campaigns and independent groups like Restore Our Future -- for example, they cannot coordinate the timing of campaign ads or provide any material support for each other. However, some level of strategic discussion is allowed.
In this instance, coordination may not be necessary. Restore Our Future is run by three veterans of Romney's run for the Republican nomination in 2008. The line of attack against Gingrich in this ad is nearly identical to attacks launched by Romney in 2008 against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The ads against McCain featured similar statements about the senator having spent too much time in Washington, and questioned his conservative credentials. One ad uses quotes from well-known conservative columnists to voice doubts about McCain's fealty to conservative principles, much in the same way that Restore Our Future uses the columnist George Will to oppose Gingrich.
Bill Burton, a former White House assistant who now runs a super PAC supporting the president, took to Twitter to point out this similarity and add a little jab at Romney. "This negative Romney attack is straight from his 07 play book against Huckabee and McCain. And why conservatives don't like or trust him."
Earlier on Thursday, Restore Our Future announced a $3.1 million ad buy, and the group posted an ad targeting President Obama to its YouTube page. It is unclear how much of the $3.1 million is going toward the airing of each individual ad.