Negative Ads Hammer Positive Gingrich Campaign

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The airwaves in Iowa are filled with a lot of people saying some not very nice things about Newt Gingrich.

"Newt has a ton of baggage," states an ad from a group called Restore Our Future, a superPAC that supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations and took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac before it helped cause the economic meltdown. Newt supports amnesty for illegal immigrants and teamed with Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore on global warming."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has an ad warning voters against "replacing one Washington insider with another."

And there's a blistering ad from Rep. Ron Paul of Texas titled: "Newt Gingrich: Serial Hypocrisy."

Perhaps it's no surprise that Gingrich is losing ground in Iowa. A poll released Sunday by Public Policy Polling indicates a drop of 8 percentage points in one week, and 13 points in two weeks. Other polls show similar sharp drops in Gingrich's support.

"Rick Perry has blanketed the state with ads himself, plus there are ads running from an apparently pro-Romney superPAC and a pro-Rick Perry superPAC, and [former Pennsylvania Sen.] Rick Santorum has started some ads," said Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford.

"Gingrich has simply had one ad in which he is so soft-spoken and gentle you expect honey and butterflies to flow from the television screen," said Goldford.

That image is far from the one Gingrich has publicly displayed most of his career, of a gloves-off, no-holds-barred fighter and bomb thrower. And Goldford says this "Newt-positive" ad doesn't seem to be working.

"There's just this wall of allegations about Gingrich's dealings, and his ads simply ignore those allegations and [try] to stay on the high road, but they become a little bit like an acid," said Goldford. "They start to eat away at the foundations of his support."

Gingrich, though, seems to be sticking with the kinder, gentler approach he put forward in his Iowa ad.

"I think positive ideas and positive solutions, the contract we've laid out at Newt.org, has attracted people," Gingrich said Sunday on CBS's Face The Nation. "I think they like the idea of somebody who's determined to be positive."

Gingrich faces another obstacle in halting his slide. His campaign lacks the resources to spend much on TV ads — even for a positive message. According to Politico, the Gingrich campaign is buying some $240,000 in airtime in Iowa. That compares with more than $800,000 being spent by Romney's superPAC and the Romney campaign, and big ad buys by Paul and Perry.

Monday in Iowa, Gingrich said one way he will respond to the negative ads is to hold daily telephone town halls, and he plans a multicity bus tour of the state before the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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