Less than a month before the Iowa caucuses, the ad wars are intensifying in the Hawkeye State, with both Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul rolling out new commercials Monday aimed at seizing the electoral high ground in a state that’s had five GOP presidential front-runners in as many months.
The ads marked Mr. Gingrich’s first and Mr. Paul’s seventh foray onto the airwaves in Iowa, where the latest Des Moines Register poll has the two Republicans running a respective first and second among GOP voters, ahead of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.
“Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past,” Mr. Gingrich says in his ad, which includes images of the Statue of Liberty and American steelworkers. “I don’t believe that. Because working together I know we can rebuild America. We can revive our economy and create jobs.”
Mr. Paul, meanwhile, uses his cartoonlike “Big Dog” ad to tout his limited-government credentials and his plan to slice federal spending by $1 trillion his first year in the Oval Office. It also highlights his pledge to eliminate federal departments, including Education, Commerce and Energy - which are shown going up in smoke in the ad while the narrator chimes in “Gone!”
“What’s up with these sorry politicians? Lots of bark. When it’s showtime? Whimpering like little Shih Tzus,” the narrator says, adding, “You want big cuts? Ron Paul has been screaming it for years.”
The dueling ads follow Herman Cain’s announcement over the weekend that he was suspending his presidential campaign, leaving his supporters up for grabs.
They also come days after Mr. Romney, who is running third in the Register poll, launched his first ad, which focuses on the economy, and as Texas Gov. Rick Perry is running two ads that focus on his domestic energy plan and his Christian faith, which he hopes will play well with the social conservatives that historically play a big role in deciding the caucuses.
The growing ad battle reflects the up-for-grabs nature of Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses, a contest that kicks off the nomination process and will set the tone for the ensuing primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“The more you keep your nets out there, the greater the chances will be that you get a good haul,” said Kevin McLaughlin, of the Polk County Iowa GOP. “Even if you have bad nets and people hear it often enough, you can still win the competition.”
Mark Greenfield, Hamilton County Iowa GOP chairman, said the candidates with the financial resources to run ads hold a distinct advantage.
“I think that really puts them in the best light and gets their points across very efficiently and effectively. [It] gets the talking points through and, boom, they are right there, without having a moderator twist things around,” Mr. Greenfield said. “If you don’t have the ads running right now, like Rick Santorum, I think that it going to hurt him.”
Mr. Gingrich on Monday also became the latest Republican to court the support of real estate magnate Donald Trump, who flirted with a presidential bid earlier this year. Mr. Trump said he was impressed with the Georgia Republican, but he stopped short of endorsing him, putting it off until after the debate he plans to host on Dec. 27 - an event that has drawn the ire of Mr. Paul, who declined an invite to the event and said it was “beneath the office of the presidency.”
Mr. Gingrich, though, defended the reality-television host, saying that this is “a country that elected a peanut farmer to the presidency,” alluding to Jimmy Carter.
“This is a country that elected an actor who made two movies with a chimpanzee to the presidency,” Mr. Gingrich said, referring to Ronald Reagan.
“Donald Trump is a great showman; he’s also a great businessman. I think one of the differences between my party and the other party is we actually go to people who know how to create jobs. We need to be open to new ways of doing things,” Mr. Gingrich said.