Time For Mitt Romney To Take On Newt Gingrich?

To attack more forcefully or not? That’s the dilemma former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faces as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surges in polls and threatens Mr. Romney’s grasp on the Republican presidential nomination.

Four weeks before the first nominating contest – the Iowa caucuses – differing views are emerging. Some Romney supporters quoted in the media say it’s time for the mild-mannered Romney to get more aggressive. He can’t count on Mr. Gingrich to self-destruct or on other candidates to take Gingrich down for him, the thinking goes.

He needs to show he’s a fighter, because that will demonstrate he’s up for the task ahead: taking on President Obama in what will surely be an epic battle against a highly organized incumbent.

But others suggest Romney has to be careful. He has kept his message focused on the economy, his strong point as a former businessman, and he doesn’t want to take his eye off the ball. He also doesn’t want to bathe himself in negativity right as many GOP voters are beginning to pay attention to the race in earnest.

When asked Tuesday whether it’s time for Romney to attack Gingrich, one Romney adviser said no. “I don’t think that he fundamentally changes his strategy in the direction of an attack on Newt,” former Rep. Vin Weber (R) of Minnesota told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC. “He’s building a campaign capable of defeating President Obama.”

In particular, Gingrich’s rocky personal past – marital infidelities, two messy divorces – is best left for others to discuss, says Stephen Wayne, a political scientist at Georgetown University.

For Romney to go there “lowers him a notch in the eyes of voters,” says Mr. Wayne. “He’s got an economic focus going against Obama, and he should stay on that route. The moment people turn from the economy to social conservatism or other issues, Romney loses his advantage.”

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell agrees that Romney has to be careful.

“Romney’s caught between a rock and a hard place,” says Mr. O’Connell, head of the CivicForumPAC. “He can’t rely on Newt being Newt. But if he goes after him, he looks like a whiner and out of character. He’s got to hope another person or organization comes up with information on Gingrich.”

Romney surrogates have also made polite attacks on Gingrich, without getting too deep into the weeds on Gingrich’s professional past.

Mr. O’Connell suggests that it matters how new information comes out on Gingrich. If it comes from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi or a pro-Romney super political action committee, voters are likely to discount it.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena On Herman Cain's Primary Exit

Herman Cain should be applauded for the outsider enthusiasm he brought to the GOP presidential primary and to the issue of tax code reform, but Cain's: “I am innocent until you have proof” shtick was wearing thin with Republican voters. Mr. Cain will have an extremely lucrative career as a television talking head. I wish him and his family the best.

Read more from Ford O'Connell At Politico's "The Arena"

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Republicans Face Potential Hard Sell To Women

After a poor showing among female voters in the 2008 presidential election, the Republican Party might again have a women problem.

Sexual misconduct accusations against Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich's treatment of his ex-wives, and harsh rhetoric during debates have raised concerns among some Republicans about the party's ability to attract women in next year's presidential race.

American women have generally favored Democratic presidential candidates for decades, but some strategists thought Republicans could take advantage of "buyer's remorse" over the bad economy in 2012 and win back women independents who helped Barack Obama win the White House in 2008.

Instead, some of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination could alienate women.

"I think the Republican party has done a disservice because it should be making more of an effort to attract female voters," said strategist Ford O'Connell, an aide to the John McCain/Sarah Palin campaign in 2008.

Appealing to women voters will be particularly important in the general election fight against Obama, who won the White House in 2008 with the biggest margin ever recorded by a Democrat among female voters.

Because he was backed by 56 percent of women, Obama won the White House with only a minority, 49 percent, of the male vote. More women than men also participate in general elections. Data show that 10 million more women cast ballots in 2008 than men.

Cain has been hit by charges that he harassed women employees when he led the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, accusations he has repeatedly denied. After an allegation that he conducted a long extra-marital affair, the businessman said this week he was reassessing his campaign.

Some women have also raised questions about Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Running as an experienced elder statesman with conservative ideas, the 68-year-old Gingrich replaced Cain as Republican front-runner last month. But he has admitted to adulterous affairs in his previous two marriages, which could put off some women.

"That does affect the level many people do trust a candidate," said Maureen Olsen, president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women, said of Gingrich. "I think it still is an issue particularly in the more conservative parts of the party."

Cain has also been criticized for comments such as referring to Nancy Pelosi, the leading Democrat in the House of Representatives, as "Princess Nancy" during a debate.

Strategists said such talk can alienate women voters as can harsh tones on issues from immigration and abortion to Iran's nuclear policy.

"They are going to have to couch some of their positions in more friendly terms. The combative nature of some positions seems to turn off women," O'Connell said.

Studies show women generally tend to favor candidates who are seen as compromisers.

Read more from Patricia Zengerle at Reuters

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Romney In A Defensive Crouch?

Thanks to significant advantages in fundraising, organizing and general campaign discipline, Mitt Romney is still the odds-on favorite to win the GOP presidential nomination next year. But Gingrich could conceivably pull it out.

Gingrich's sizeable polling leads in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida coupled with Romney's declining popularity among GOP primary voters should be a troubling sign for Team Romney. What Team Romney needs to understand is that GOP voters are looking for a fighter who will keep one eye on the economy and one eye on government reform, not a candidate who is just better than Obama on paper.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Payroll Tax A Winning Argument For Dems?

On this issue, congressional Republicans have gotten themselves crosswise from a messaging perspective. What the president is pushing for is great from a PR perspective, but the surtax is terrible policy given that it negatively impacts small business owners.

If Congressional Republicans don't quickly find an adequate solution coupled with a unified message, I fear they will be forced to compromise or else they risk being bested by the president at a very critical time.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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What Gingrich Needs To Do To Win The GOP Nomination

Re-Posted From The Daily Caller

Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign hit a major snag right out of the gate: In May, he alienated conservatives by criticizing Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal as “right-wing social engineering” during an appearance on “Meet the Press.” Less than one month later, citing disagreements over campaign strategy, many of Gingrich’s top campaign staffersbolted for presumably greener pastures. To say that the former House speaker’s presidential bid was left for dead by early summer would be an understatement.

But five months later, thanks to his solid debate performances, his opponents’ mistakes and the good deal of anti-Romney sentiment within the Republican base, Gingrich finds himself leading in the national polls for the GOP nomination.

While former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is still the odds-on favorite to win his party’s presidential nomination next year, Gingrich could pull it out. So what does Gingrich have to do to become his party’s standard-bearer in 2012?

Stay on message: Gingrich has a tendency to be his own worst enemy on the campaign trail. His recent comments on child labor laws and illegal immigration are evidence of his inability to stay on message at crucial times. He may be the smartest guy in the room, but there are times when he simply needs to put the brakes on his mouth. For someone with so many ideas swirling around in his head, that could be an extremely difficult endeavor.

Demonstrate organizational tenacity: Currently, Gingrich has significant leads in the IowaSouth Carolina and Florida nominating contests. However, his campaign is short on both cash and assets on the ground in many of the early primary states, which will make it very hard to convert these polling numbers into votes. Organizationally, Gingrich is certainly going to have to do more with less if he is to have a realistic shot at winning the nomination.

Win the Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primary in January: The key to winning the GOP nomination is momentum, and while Gingrich currently has momentum, he must maintain it for a significant period of time. Unfortunately for Gingrich, this could be difficult given that there have been some noteworthy changes to next year’s Republican presidential primary calendar. As The New York Times’s Nate Silver notes, there is a significant lull between the opening nominating contests in January and Super Tuesday on March 6. Given this prolonged break (Michigan and Arizona will hold contests on February 28), Team Gingrich must come out of the chute like gangbusters and score victories in the Hawkeye State and Palmetto State in order to accrue the campaign funds Gingrich needs to wage a drawn-out campaign. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if Gingrich captured the Florida primary as well.

Gingrich’s odds of winning the nomination are long, but if he can pull off this trifecta, he could defy the skeptics and become the ultimate Romney roadblock. Only time will tell if he can actually deliver.

Ford O’Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, the editor of the Political Quarterback and an advisor to conservative candidates.

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Mitt Romney Fights Back On Two Fronts

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign scrambled on Monday to fight challenges on two fronts: fellow Republican Newt Gingrich's momentum and new Democratic accusations of Romney's frequent flip flopping on policies.

The former Massachusetts governor launched a media assault against President Barack Obama's handling of the economy, after Democrats released a biting new ad that accused the Republican of changing his policy positions with the political winds.

Romney also vowed to fight for every vote in New Hampshire, where he suffered a setback at the weekend when a leading newspaper endorsed Gingrich as a better choice for conservative voters.

The Democrats are targeting Romney early because "he's running as the presumed nominee," Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse told reporters.

Romney has failed to gain much traction in opinion polls. His support from Republican primary voters has stayed at around 25 percent, and a series of rivals seen as more conservative have briefly replaced him in the No. 1 spot.

Romney has been seeking to appeal to conservatives by staking out positions they agree with, such as insisting he would grant waivers to all 50 states so they can opt out of Obama's healthcare overhaul law and a by taking a tough stance against illegal immigration.

Strategists said Romney needs to do more to win over the Republican right if he wants to beat Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain and Texas Governor Rick Perry for the nomination.

"If he can demonstrate that he is going to put conservative principles in place to fix the economy ... he could have this whole fight in the general election with the Obama folks," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

Read more from Patricia Zengerle and Steve Holland at Reuters

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Herman Cain 'Reassessing' Campaign After Affair Allegation: Analysts Say Scandal To Help Newt Gingrich

Scandal-scarred Herman Cain held a conference call with his staff early Tuesday to say he is "reassessing" his campaign.

Cain assured his supporters that the next few days would proceed as scheduled - but then seemingly hedged his bets about whether he would stay in the race for the White House.

“But if a decision is made, different than to plow ahead, you all will be the first to know,” Cain told his staff, according to a transcript of the call published by The National Review.

Cain again denied an Atlanta woman’s claim that she had a 13-year affair with the married businessman, but acknowledged that the allegation was politically damaging.

“We have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people’s minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth,” Cain told his staff.

Ginger White stepped forward Monday to allege that she had a longtime affair with Cain, who has been married for 43 years.

His slip-ups have helped Newt Gingrich sprint to the front of the GOP field.

Several political strategists say Cain’s departure from the Republican presidential race is all but assured following the fresh allegations.

“I’m not sure he lasts until Iowa to be honest,” said Democratic political strategist Peter Fenn, who thought Cain’s exit would be measured in “days, not weeks.”

But if Cain drops out or not, his implosion continues to benefit Gingrich more than any other GOP contender, politicos believe.

Other GOP challengers have jockeyed for the support of conservatives who have not embraced frontrunner Mitt Romney - but politicos believe contenders like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann have already been too badly pummeled to net many of Cain’s supporters.

“I would put the money on Gingrich,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and former presidential campaign adviser. “[Cain and Gingrich] are being backed by the same anti-Romney sentiment.”

O’Connell noted the situation was ironic, as Gingrich has had several extramarital affairs in the past - including one during the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton.

Read more from Alison Gendar, Aliyah Shahid & Jonathan Lemire at New York Daily News

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Will Immigration Stance Hurt Or Help Newt Gingrich?

Now that Gingrich is a GOP presidential co-frontrunner, he has to demonstrate message discipline if he wants to have a realistic shot at winning the nomination. And when it came to immigration last night, Gingrich failed.

In true Dr. John fashion, Gingrich took the right stance on immigration (for the general election), but at the wrong time (heading into the Iowa caucuses). At the very least, Gingrich should have waited until the Florida Republican primary before making his true feelings on immigration known.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Will Obama's 'Lazy' Comment Haunt Him?

It doesn't matter if the president's "lazy" comment was taken out of context, because in politics: "perception is reality."

And the perception right now is that Obama is willing to blame everyone but himself for America's high unemployment and alarming debt. That said, Republicans should certainly take every opportunity to use the president's comment to their advantage.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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