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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Paul goes on the offensive

Ron Paul's campaign has created a 2 and a half minute video that absolutely rips apart Newt Gingrich. I mean like a no holds barred, the gloves are off, I-don't-respect-you-at-all, we-are-now-officially-enemies video. You can see it below:

There are some attack ads that politicians let roll off their shoulders in the primaries. For instance, Hillary and Obama were at each other's throats, but then they forgave each other and joined forces. It can be a mutual understanding that the attack was only made due to political necessity at the time, like a "hey, I'd have done the same thing, no worries." This is not one of them. Newt has been captain solidarity so far, and has literally declined opportunities to attack or even softly criticize his Republican allies on the debates. His catchphrase has been "Hey, any of us are better than Obama!" and he's emphasized that party unity is necessary if Republicans are going to win. This makes Paul's attack ad especially likely to antagonize Gingrich, because it was totally unprovoked. Ron Paul made it clear that he wants nothing to do with Newt Gingrich and will not support him if he wins the election: hardly a surprise in theory, but as a tactic this is still somewhat new for Paul.

For sure, we've seen him blast both parties in general, and all of the candidates on stage with him in the debates in general. He's made backhanded criticisms of his opponents by saying things like "I'm the only candidate in this race who isn't ____", and occasionally would list several of his opponents by name in a list, saying "he supported ____ and she supported ____". But until now he hasn't set his sights squarely on the person who's highest in the polls and unleashed such a specific barrage. His previous ads were either entirely "I'm awesome!" or at least "everyone else is really bad, except me", rather than a "this individual guy is really bad!".

Why is Paul adopting this new strategy? I think it's because he senses his opportunity, and realizes that Newt is the last thing blocking his path. Several polls, including ones by Bloomberg and Iowa State University, have placed him in second place or higher with 19-25% of the support in Iowa. The rotisserie of non-Romney candidates has reached it's fourth installment, and the only two others in the race are Rick Santorum (a Romney clone) and Jon Huntsman (who's socially liberal). Paul thinks his best shot is if the limited-government hawks in the tea party run out of alternatives and have to choose between s big government hawk (Romney, Santorum, Bachmann) and a limited government dove (Paul). He's banking on them choosing the latter. But before they face that choice, Gingrich has to fall in just the same way Bachmann, Perry, and Cain did before him. Paul want's to be the 5th non-Romney option, peaking just in time for the Iowa Caucus on January 3rd, and it's essential that Gingrich fall for that to happen.

As for the actual content of the ad, I personally don't like the first third of it. Climate change is something I think Republicans, including Paul, would be wise to wake up to, and I'm not sure Paul Ryan was actually talking about Gingrich in that quote. But the latter two thirds of it are devastating, and they portray Gingrich as the corporatist, crony capitalist political insider that both OWS and the Tea Party despise. It's a risky gamble because all attack ads risk coming off as ugly, but it's a smart one.

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