In Virginia, Gingrich tries to lower expectations - James Hohmann
As Newt Gingrich ratcheted up his criticisms of Mitt Romney Thursday, he sought to tamp down expectations for how well he needs to perform in the early states.
During a Q-and-A session with voters here, Gingrich claimed his goal is to finish “in the top three or four” in Iowa, “in the top two in New Hampshire and then to win South Carolina and Florida.” He suggested that the deluge of attacks from super PACs backing Romney lowers the bar for where he needs to finish in the Jan. 3 caucuses to stay viable.
“There was a period when I was the frontrunner, but frankly if you get $7 [million] or $9 million in ads - most of them false - the sheer weight of negativity has a real impact,” the former House speaker told reporters. “I don’t think anybody has any idea what’s going to happen in Iowa. You could imagine Ron Paul coming in first. You could imagine a number of other scenarios. We’re certainly in the hunt … We’re going to have a fairly good advertising campaign, but it will be dwarfed by the scale of negativity that you’re going to see. So the question in part is: Can you cut through the negatives and reconnect with people?”
Two stops near Virginia’s state capitol brought a new tone: Gingrich spoke more positively about his ideas to solve the country’s problems and changed the way he framed the race. He described the primaries as a choice between a “Massachusetts moderate” and a “Southern conservative” - labels he has not been using.
“In the end, this is going to shake out into a very simple campaign: You’re going to have somebody who has been a consistent conservative going back to the 1970s and you’re going to have someone who is, in fact, a moderate,” he said. “I don’t know of any time since Tom Dewey that a moderate Republican has been able to win the presidential nomination.”
Gingrich told the audience that New Hampshire voters hear about Romney’s shortcomings every day because they listen to Boston talk radio.
“We have a huge ground game in New Hampshire, which just sprung up overnight, I think largely in reaction to Massachusetts. There is a tremendous number of people in New Hampshire who look at ‘RomneyCare,’ tax policy and big government. And they go, ‘Not us,’” he said.