You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

After Iowa, verbal barbs fly among GOP candidates

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. — Rick Santorum sported a post-caucus glow Wednesday, while Newt Gingrich sharpened his attacks on his biggest foe. Jon Huntsman Jr. looked to wiggle into the mix, and Ron Paul took the day off, kind of — all just hours after Mitt Romney's photo-finish victory in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses.

Political attention now has turned here, to Mr. Romney's political backyard of New Hampshire, and his Iowa victory combined with his consistently large lead in state polls has helped widen the bull's-eye on his back.

Mr. Gingrich was even led to float the idea of forming some sort of conservative tag team whose sole aim is to crush Mr. Romney's chances at the nomination.

But Mr. Gingrich also came under fire from Mr. Paul, who dubbed the former House speaker a "chicken hawk" for avoiding military service as a young man and then supporting military action overseas.

The fireworks were just part of the fallout from the Iowa caucuses, which also helped re-create the political version of the David-versus-Goliath storyline, with the role of David going to Mr. Santorum — at least for now.

But with only six days to go before the first-in-the-nation primary, the former senator from Pennsylvania faces an uphill battle in matching the war chest and ground game that Mr. Romney has basically built since he lost here four years ago to Sen. John McCain — who returned to the Granite State on Wednesday to endorse Mr. Romney.

The Santorum camp, though, is expressing confidence that a continued focus on the kind of retail politicking in Iowa — which helped him come within eight votes of winning — will help him take a dent out of Mr. Romney's front-runner status. The campaign reportedly raised more than $1 million in a single night.

"Last night, we made a statement, a statement for the restoration of the founding values that made our country the greatest nation in the world," Mr. Santorum said in a fundraising email that he blasted out a little more than an hour before a "Faith, Family and Freedom" town-hall meeting he had scheduled at a nursing home in Brentwood.

"Stand with me, join the fight for faith, join the fight for strong families, join the fight for the freedoms that made our nation a revolutionary ideal," he said.

In the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses, it has become increasingly clear Mr. Santorum has an ally in Mr. Gingrich. The Georgian showered Mr. Santorum with praise for running a "positive" campaign and has said he's willing to team up with him to create an anti-Romney alliance that aims to undercut the presidential dreams of the "moderate Massachusetts Republican."

Mr. Gingrich, who finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, spent a good chunk of Wednesday questioning Mr. Romney's conservative credentials — both during a campaign stop here and in a full-page ad that ran in the state's largest newspaper that characterized him as a "Bold Reagan Conservative" and Mr. Romney, former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, as a "Timid Massachusetts Moderate."

"Gov. Romney is a moderate Massachusetts Republican to the left of a vast majority of Republicans," Mr. Gingrich told reporters during his first campaign appearance in the Granite State, arguing that his rival had "a very limited appeal in the conservative party."

He also reached out to orphaned supporters of Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who called it quits Wednesday after placing sixth in Iowa, while downplaying Mr. Romney's first-place finish in Iowa.

"Gov. Romney's entire strategy was to hold on while the conservative vote split many ways, and continue to look like the strongest because he could aggregate 25 percent," he said. "But as you gradually narrow it down, it becomes more and more obvious that people go to anybody but Romney. And I think Bachmann's folks will wind up largely split between Santorum and me, and almost none of them will go to Romney."

Mr. Gingrich's "conservative split" scenario, though, became likelier Wednesday when Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who placed fifth and was reported to have been reconsidering the campaign, surprised many by announcing he would soldier on with plans to campaign in South Carolina ahead of the state's Jan. 21 primary.

Mr. Huntsman, who has hinged his entire campaign on New Hampshire, struck a similar note, playing up the idea that Republicans are still looking for an alternative to Mr. Romney.

"Seventy-five percent of the party, 75 percent didn't want the status quo with Romney," he told reporters while he campaigns here, offering himself as an alternative.

Mr. Paul delivered some of the stiffest punches of the day when he called Mr. Gingrich a "chicken hawk." In an appearance on CNN, the Texan pushed back against Mr. Gingrich's recent claims that his foreign policy platform is "stunningly dangerous" by highlighting the fact that he has supported military action overseas after avoiding service as a young man.

"You know when Newt Gingrich was called to service in the 1960s during the Vietnam era, guess what he thought about danger? He chickened out on that and he got a deferment. He didn't even go. So right now, he's sending these young kids over there to endure the danger," he said, adding that "some people call that a chicken hawk and I think he falls into that category."

Asked about the comments, Mr. Gingrich told reporters that Mr. Paul's comments were inaccurate.

"This is a man that says wild and outrageous things with no facts and who later denies having said them," he said. "I had two children during that period, I never asked for a deferment because during the period I was a father, and it was automatic."

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.