Romney team slams Gingrich for criticizing Ryan Medicare plan

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011.
AP Photo

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign on Friday released a scathing web ad attacking the new Republican frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, for characterizing the House Republican Medicare reform plan as "right-wing social engineering."

"Last May, leading Republicans praised Congressman Paul Ryan for his plan to reform Medicare," the 60-second video says. The words in the video are accompanied by audio of Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell commending Ryan.

That praise is contrasted with footage of Gingrich saying with respect to the Ryan plan, "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering." The video caps off with a series of prominent conservatives, including Charles Krauthammer and Bill Bennett, castigating Gingrich for his comments.

The ad is the latest element of the Romney campaign's aggressive targeting of the new leader in the polls. On Thursday, Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho emailed reporters to attack Gingrich's criticism of the Ryan plan, saying, "Lifelong Washington insiders can't fix the mess they helped create." Romney backers continued the assault on a conference call Thursday, calling Gingrich "not a reliable or trustworthy leader."

For much of the Republican primary season, Romney appeared to the favorite to win the nomination, but Gingrich has taken a clear lead in recent weeks, beating Romney by 14 points in Iowa in the latest CBS News/New York Times poll.

A pro-Romney super PAC is also preparing an ad attacking Gingrich for having "a ton of baggage."

The group Restore Our Future produced the ad, which slams the former House speaker for being fined for ethics violations, his work for Freddie Mac, as well as his positions on issues like immigration and climate change. The ad even hits Gingrich for supporting a health insurance mandate, "the centerpiece of Obamacare" (a critique that easily applies to Romney as well).

"Why is this man smiling?" a narrator says in the ad, as a picture of President Obama is shown. "Because his plan is working: Brutally attack Mitt Romney, and hope Newt Gingrich is his opponent. Why? Newt has a ton of baggage.'"

Restore Our Future told Politico that the ad isn't quite finished and it shouldn't have been released, but the ad is still viewable online. The group is spending $3.1 million to support Romney in Iowa.