With Newt Gingrich, How Long Can Mitt Romney Afford to Play Nice?

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Newt Gingrich opponents have been hoping his campaign would implode on its own. Some analysts say Mitt Romney will need to turn up the heat and confront Newt Gingrich head-on.

Newt Gingrich's opponents have been hoping his campaign would implode on its own. But now, as he continues to soar in polls, they're cooking up ways to try to pop his balloon.

The Ron Paul YouTube video making the rounds since yesterday, which said Mr. Gingrich was guilty of "serial hypocrisy," is likely just the opening salvo in a brewing attack on the new top contender.

"Gingrich has to prepare for quite an assault, probably from several different directions," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

As the early January votes in Iowa and New Hampshire approach, Mitt Romney will have to confront Gingrich head-on because "he is a mortal danger to [Romney] in those contests," Professor Sabato says.

In national polls, Gingrich is in front at 23.8 percent, followed by Mr. Romney at 21.3 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average of results from Nov. 13 to 20.

Recent polls in Florida show Gingrich with an even stronger, double-digit lead over Romney. And in New Hampshire, Gingrich has won the influential endorsement of the Manchester Union Leader.

But so far, Romney has taken a rather mild-mannered approach to his nearest rival.

In a Fox News interview earlier this week that some observers say showed weak spots in the Romney campaign, he labeled Gingrich a "lifelong politician." And he's been continuing to hit that theme.

"The problem with this attack is that Newt can point to his success on conservative issues in Washington during that time where others cannot," writes Michael Dennehy, an unaligned GOP strategist, in an e-mail to the Monitor. "So this will likely come down to who can shout the loudest - or SPEND the most on attack ads."

One strategy of the Romney campaign, Politico reports today, will be "to increase the attention to Romney's wife of 42 years and five sons in the hopes of sparking more conversation about Gingrich's three marriages without raising the topic themselves. …


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