Rom­ney foes an­gry over ‘very ugly’ads

On­go­ing GOP bat­tle fu­eled by bit­ter­ness

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY CHARLES BABING­TON

NEW OR­LEANS | The mil­lions of dol­lars spent by Mitt Rom­ney’s al­lies on TV ads at­tack­ing his two main ri­vals have helped the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor pull ahead in the GOP pres­i­den­tial race. The re­sult­ing bit­ter­ness, how­ever, is mak­ing it hard for him to lock down the nom­i­na­tion and end the party fight­ing that de­lights Democrats.

Re­pub­li­can in­sid­ers say Rick San­to­rum and Newt Gin­grich are fum­ing over the hard-hit­ting 30-sec­ond spots that sent them tum­bling af­ter they gained early leads in Iowa, Florida, Michi­gan and other states.

Ev­ery elec­tion bruises some feel­ings. But cam­paign vet­er­ans say Mr. San­to­rum and Mr. Gin­grich feel the com­mer­cials were point­edly un­fair, and that’s a big rea­son they keep fight­ing de­spite Mr. Rom­ney’s sig­nif­i­cant lead in del­e­gates and pleas from some Re­pub­li­can lead­ers to close ranks and fo­cus on Pres­i­dent Obama.

“The Rom­ney folks have run a pretty ugly cam­paign,” said Mike Mckenna, a Re­pub­li­can strate­gist and poll­ster who is un­af­fil­i­ated in the pres­i­den­tial race. “It’s been very per­sonal, it’s been very ugly, it’s been very hos­tile. There’s a lot of bad blood.”

Mr. San­to­rum and Mr. Gin­grich, or po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees that back them, have mounted their own at­tacks against Mr. Rom­ney, of course. But a pro-rom­ney su­per PAC, Re­store Our Fu­ture, has swamped them in fundrais­ing and spend­ing. First it buried Mr. Gin­grich in an avalanche of at­tack ads in Iowa and Florida, then it ham­mered Mr. San­to­rum in Michi­gan, Ohio and else­where.

These com­mit­tees can spend un­lim­ited money sup­port­ing can­di­dates as long as they don’t co­or­di­nate with the can­di­dates, yet are re­quired to re­veal lit­tle about who they are.

One or two ads in par­tic­u­lar seemed to in­fu­ri­ate them, and their bit­ter com­plaints failed to per­suade the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor to de­mand an end to the ads.

An ad re­peat­edly aired by the pro-rom­ney com­mit­tee claimed that Mr. Gin­grich had cospon­sored leg­is­la­tion “that would have given $60 mil­lion a year to a U.N. pro­gram sup­port­ing China’s bru­tal one-child pol­icy.” The strong im­pli­ca­tion was that Mr. Gin­grich, as House speaker, had pro­moted abortions in China.

The leg­is­la­tion, how­ever, specif­i­cally barred U.S. funds from be­ing used for “the per­for­mance of in­vol­un­tary ster­il­iza­tion or abor­tion or to co­erce any per­son to ac­cept fam­ily plan­ning.”

Mr. Gin­grich also is an­gry over ads say­ing he paid a $300,000 fine to set­tle the House ethics case filed against him in the mid-1990s. Mr. Gin­grich says it was a ne­go­ti­ated re­im­burse­ment of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s costs.

Mr. San­to­rum has com­plained of­ten about a pro-rom­ney ad that ac­cused Mr. San­to­rum of back­ing leg­is­la­tion to al­low felons to vote. Mr. San­to­rum, a for­mer se­na­tor from Penn­syl­va­nia, said he would al­low them to vote only af­ter com­plet­ing their sen­tences, pro­ba­tion and pa­role.

In a Jan. 16 de­bate, Mr. San­to­rum said Mr. Rom­ney should de­mand that the “in­ac­cu­rate” ad be taken down. Mr. San­to­rum said Mr. Rom­ney, when gov­er­nor, tol­er­ated a more lib­eral state law, which al­lowed ex-felons to vote while still on pro­ba­tion or pa­role.

Mr. Rom­ney said vi­o­lent criminals should never be al­lowed to vote again. He noted that he has been the tar­get of at­tack ads, too. He said he had no con­trol over su­per PACS, which by law must op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently from of­fi­cial cam­paigns.

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