Knives out for Newt Gingrich, Republican frontrunner

Newt Gingrich in Iowa Republican debate (11 December 2011) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Does Mr Gingrich's past make him vulnerable to the public mood?

If Newt is volcanic, when will he explode ?

If the theme of the latest debate was "Get Gingrich", it didn't pay off. More than one commentator concluded that after the ABC Iowa debate, Gingrich had cemented his position as the frontrunner.

When Romney attacked him for being, gasp, a career politician he raised a laugh by pointing out Mitt himself would have been one if he had won his first senate race. Herman Cain at least really wasn't a politician, even if he was a Washington insider. With him gone, it really is a bit pathetic watching these men and women who aspire to the world's top political job pretending that they aren't politicians.

But the knives are out from Newt. Romney has come up with one campaign ad showing what a constant man he is. A family man. He left it to his wife Ann to point out he supported her when she was diagnosed with MS.

He doesn't have to say that Newt left his first wife when she was recovering from cancer. Then cheated on his second while hounding Bill Clinton for his dalliance with Monica. Another advert attacks him as a less than faithful ally to the conservative cause, not trusted by those he's worked with.

It may be that Gingrich's past does make him particularly vulnerable to the public mood. If you are one of those who deplores the atmosphere as hyperpartisan, Newt was a leading light in bringing that to Washington. If you agree with David Frum that part of Washington's problem is that the parties behave like a Parliamentary opposition, not part of the government, he started that too.

Dana Milbank points out in the Washington Post that Newt suggested opponents should be demonised by labeling them "traitors", "selfish" and "sick". Milbank finishes with a brilliant line: "Now, Gingrich said he doesn't want to be 'the attack dog in the Republican Party'. But it's a bit late for purity. He's Newt Gingrich, and he approved this message."

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