In the fierce battle between Next Gingrich and Mitt Romney for second place in this year’s presidential campaign, the two top Republicans have become the president’s best aides for his reelection. By attacking each others’ weaknesses, they damaged their image in the eyes of potential voters and provided an invaluable script for how to bring down the eventual Republican nominee.
The most useful attacks (for President Obama) have involved the giant mortgage lenders Fannie Mae (The Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (Federal Home Mortgage Corporation). Many people, especially anti-government Republicans, falsely believe that Fannie and Freddie were the causes of the mortgage meltdown. Until the Republican nominating campaign, these two lenders, who controlled 90% of the secondary mortgage market in 2003, have been viewed as a Democratic problem. However, Republican accusations over the lenders during their campaign for the nomination show that Republicans are complicit in the mortgage meltdown and both parties have been involved with these controversial lenders.
First, Mitt Romney pointed out that Gingrich earned $1.6 million lobbying for Freddie Mac and thus by association is partially responsible for the mortgage meltdown. This ad by the Romney campaign could just have well been produced by a Democratic media consultant.
The ad also accuses Gingrich of being a beltway insider, something he has been running from since the campaign began. If Gingrich wins the nomination, this ad will make it harder for him to project the “outsider” image that he is trying to cultivate.
For his part, Gingrich has accused Romney of profiting from Fannie and Freddie, “Ironically, apparently his tax return indicates he owns stock in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac…” Gingrich wants to hide his role in Freddie Mac by making Fannie and Freddie an issue of the elite rich guy, Romney, making money off the mortgage brokers. Newt has been labeled a corrupt insider and Romney an elite opportunist, “I think someone who owns stock in a place that forecloses on Floridians has a lot of gall to start raising the issue,” he told reporters.” All this plays well for the President and his campaign who will use these labels to discredit whoever wins the Republican nomination.
Then there were the attacks on Romney from Rick Perry along with Gingrich for his involvement in vulture capitalism. Editor of the Nation, Katrina Van De Heuvel puts it well,
With their eyes set on Bain’s bane and Mitt Romney’s career, Perry and Gingrich have been astonishingly and appropriately brutal. “There’s a real difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism,” Perry told Fox and Friends last week. “I don’t believe that capitalism is making a buck under any circumstances.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Gingrich sharpened that point further on Bloomberg: “…Show me somebody who has consistently made money while losing money for workers and I’ll show you someone who has undermined capitalism.” Sing it, Brother Gingrich.
Gingrich further challenged Romney by releasing his tax returns early before the South Carolina Republican debate. This pushed Romney into releasing his own tax returns that show he paid less than 15% in taxes (half of what Gingrich reported). Obama gained yet another talking point that has resonance with the American people, the 99% versus the 1%. If Romney gets the Republican nomination, Obama can use the framing of the people versus the corporate elite represented by Romney to defeat the former CEO of Bain Capital. So much for Romney’s business acumen being an asset in the general election.
Romney counters by attacking Gingrich and his time as speaker of the House, “…Members of his own congressional team after four years of his leadership, they voted to replace him,” Romney said of Gingrich’s time as House speaker from 1995 to 1999. “This was the first time in American history that a speaker of the House has resigned.”
And Romney and other Republicans have criticized Gingrich on his appearance with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a climate change ad. There is no worse sin for Republicans than cavorting with the enemy, and Pelosi is enemy number two, right after President Obama. This might not hurt him with Democrats who will never vote for Gingrich, but Republicans may turn away from him in the general election for this sin.
The longer the Republican nominating process continues, the longer Gingrich holds on and convinces Republican voters he is the true conservative left with a chance, the better it will be for President Obama come November. And the more Romney has to spend attacking Gingrich, the less money he will have to go after Obama in the fall.