If you set about your day today in Iowa with the purpose of avoiding political advertising, you might be able to do it, but I doubt it. You would have to avoid radio and TV altogether, and it would be a good idea to lay off the internet. IP-targeted ads will greet you on Drudge, Google, Facebook, and just about every other web page you visit. Literally millions of dollars worth of ads, the bulk targeting Newt Gingrich from pro-Romney super PACs, dominate all electronic means of communication.
But you might also want to avoid going anywhere at all. Heading through West Des Moines last night, I noticed many yard signs of various sizes promoting the candidates. This flyer was on my car last night as it was parked outside the Romney event in Clive.
The flyer hammers Mitt Romney for flip-flopping and it’s fairly effective.
The air war has evidently been far more effective, though. Gingrich has slid down the polls just as swiftly as he rose to top them, while Rick Santorum is peaking and attracting attacks just as Iowans head to the caucuses, nearly half of them still undecided. Rick Perry criticized Santorum’s record on pork on Fox last night, and again on Fox this morning, before going after Romney for not being a “true conservative.” This morning on CBS, an evidently frustrated Gingrich called Mitt Romney a “liar,” sparking an exchange between Gingrich and Norah O’Donnell that ended up with Gingrich all but pushing a liar over Barack Obama.
“You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?”
“Well, you seem shocked by it!” said Gingrich. “Yes. I mean, why – ”
“Why are you saying he is a liar?” asked O’Donnell.
“Because this is a man whose staff created the PAC, his millionaire friends fund the PAC, he pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC – it’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth.
“It’s just like this pretense that he’s a conservative. Here’s a Massachusetts moderate who has tax-paid abortions in ‘Romneycare,’ puts Planned Parenthood in ‘Romneycare,’ raises hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes on businesses, appoints liberal judges to appease Democrats, and wants the rest of us to believe somehow he’s magically a conservative.
“I just think he ought to be honest with the American people and try to win as the real Mitt Romney, not try to invent a poll-driven, consultant-guided version that goes around with talking points, and I think he ought to be candid. I don’t think he’s being candid and that will be a major issue. From here on out from the rest of this campaign, the country has to decide: Do you really want a Massachusetts moderate who won’t level with you to run against Barack Obama who, frankly, will just tear him apart? He will not survive against the Obama machine.”
“A Massachusetts moderate that you have just said is a flat-out liar – that does raise the question, Mr. Speaker,” said Bob Schieffer. “If he does get the nomination, do you think that you can find a way to support him, or will that just be a little too much for you?”
“Sure,” replied Gingrich.”
“You could? You’d support a liar?”
“No, I would support a Republican candidate against Barack Obama because I think Barack Obama is tearing the country apart.
“But, let’s be clear,” added Gingrich. “Which part of what I just said to you is false? Why is it that if I’m candid in person and I wanted to be honest in person, that’s shocking? If [Romney’s] PAC buys millions of dollars in ads to say things that are false, that’s somehow the way Washington plays the game. Isn’t that exactly what’s sick about this country right now? Isn’t that what the American people are tired of?”
“But what you said,” said O’Donnell, “if somebody would lie to you to get to be president, would lie to you when they are president. So you’re saying that Mitt Romney would be a liar as president – how can you support somebody like that?”
“He would be much less destructive than Barack Obama,” Gingrich said. “Look, if you think Barack Obama is not a risk to the country’s future, then he’s somebody you can vote for. I think if you watch what the White House is doing right now, this whole effort to govern without the Congress is stunningly unconstitutional.”
“But Mr. Speaker, what you’re saying is ‘Folks, Barack Obama is so bad that we’d be better off electing a bald-faced liar to the presidency, somebody that we would never know if he was telling the truth.’ That is pretty strong stuff,” said Schieffer.
And the Iowa air war continues, for today at least.