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Newt Wants It Both Ways

It’s starting to look like Newt Gingrich has more in common with Mitt Romney than just a background in vulture capitalism. During the Iowa primaries, Gingrich attacked Romney’s “flip-flops” on a number of issues, but Newt has his own list of “flip-flops.” Yesterday he added another one to the list, when he flipped-flopped on his attack on Romney’s vulture capitalist past — twice in one day.

At a midday book signing yesterday, in Spartanburg, SC, Newt confessed to a supporter that he’d “crossed the line” by attacking Romney’s vulture capitalist past.

“I’m here to implore one thing of you. I think you’ve missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses. I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenuousness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market. I think it’s nuanced,” said Dean Glossop, an Army Reservist from Inman, S.C.

“I agree with you,” Gingrich said. “It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect. … I agree with you entirely.”

Before the end of the day, Gingrich’s campaign issued a statement that he’s not backing off his attacks on Romney’s vulture capitalist resume.

Newt Gingrich - CaricatureNewt Gingrich’s campaign on Wednesday denied a report that he was backing away from attacking Mitt Romney over his career as a corporate takeover specialist at Bain Capital.

“We will continue to examine what decisions he made at Bain,”” Mr. Gingrich’s spokesman said. “And the American people can decide whether or not they want an investment banker in chief as their commander in chief.””

…At the least, the episode seemed to show message confusion within the Gingrich campaign, which has cycled through different strategies in the past 10 days to find a potent response to withering attacks by Mr. Romney’s “super PAC,” which have portrayed Mr. Gingrich as a compromised Washington insider.

In a sign that the Gingrich camp is not backing down from going after Mr. Romney, it posted a Web video on Wednesday, “For the Dogs,” which compiles embarrassing Romney moments, including scenes of him being jeered for calling corporations “people” and explaining in an interview why he took a family vacation with Seamus the Irish setter strapped in a kennel on the roof of the car.

Which Newt to believe? If actions speak louder than words, then for the moment it’s a safer bet to believe the not-ready-to-make-nice Newt. After all, he’s storming into South Carolina in full kamikaze mode. Besides putting together a Romney blooper reel, Gingrich has launched a webcast of his anti-Romney movie, “When Mitt Romney Came To Town” (perhaps ensuring that Romney will be softened up by the time Democrats launch their own Bain-based attack). After all, his Super PAC spent too much on it — $3.4 million — for no one to see it.

Newt is confirming everything his opponents have said about him in their attacks: despite his claims of rehabilitation, his determination to take the party’s likely nominee — and perhaps the party itself — with him as he goes down in flames just proves that he’s the same old Newt.

More damaging in the long term, conservatives see Gingrich’s assault on Romney’s career in private equity as the undoing of years of painstaking work to repair his image and reputation.

“I think he’s hurt himself pretty badly. He had rehabilitated himself so much after his speakership, to the point where he was a credible candidate for president,” said a top GOP leader, who asked not to be identified. Gingrich’s latest broadsides against Romney have “just reinforced the perception that he’s erratic, but also that he lacks conviction or principles,” the Republican added.

“It’s like the modern-day equivalent of getting off the back of Air Force One,” he said, referring to the infamous incident in which an angry Speaker Gingrich took a hard line in 1995 budget talks at least in part he said because he’d been asked to get off President Bill Clinton’s plane by the back stairs. “First the incessant whining, and then the lashing out. It’s all seen in that context.”

Meet the new Newt, same as the old Newt. Maybe he just can’t help it.

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