The Washington Times - December 9, 2011, 08:55AM

With friends like Newt Gingrich, there’s no need for the political left to hammer the conservative agenda — because the former House Speaker will do it for them.

That’s the message Mitt Romney’s presidential team is pumping home in the new Web ad it released Friday, which highlights how Mr. Gingrich was out of sync with his party when he characterized House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed Medicare overhaul as “too big a jump” and “right-wing social engineering.”

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Former Sen. Jim Talent and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, a couple of Romney’s surrogates, delivered a similar warning during a conference call with reporters on Thursday, where they warned fellow GOPers that Mr. Gingrich decision to attack the Ryan plan on national television underscores his lack of discipline, which makes him an unreliable leader and hurts the conservative agenda.

The attacks coincide with polls that show Mr. Gingrich has leapfrogged past Mr. Romney in the GOP presidential race nationally and in three of the four states that host the first primaries and caucuses of the nomination contest. The race kicks off with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.

“The closer we are to caucus day, the clearer the choice,” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said in an email to The Washington Times. “You can vote for a candidate working to rebuild America, or you can support candidates who only know to tear each other down.”

The minute-long “With Friends Like Newt” spot that the Romney camp released Friday contrasts Mr. Gingrich’s remarks with those of House and Senate Republican leaders, who showered Mr. Ryan with praise after the Wisconsin Republican released his plan to curtail the costs of the federal retiree program by transforming it into a voucher-like program.

“Congressman Ryan has shown a lot of courage by proposing a budget that would tackle a big part of the problem,” says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, describes the Ryan budget as one “that’s worthy of the American people.”

“But Not Newt Gingrich,” the ad reads, alongside a picture of Mr. Gingrich, before jumping to his May appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Mr. Gingrich told host David Gregory. He later added, “I think that’s too big a jump.”

From there, the ad goes on to highlight responses to Mr. Gingrich’s remarks, including a Wall Street Journal editorial that said the Georgia Republican “chose to throw his former allies in the GOP House not so much under the bus as off the Grand Canyon rim.”

“It’s a character problem,” Charles Krauthammer, a conservative analysis, says in the spot. “He doesn’t have the discipline that you want in a president.”