Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich dueled over super PAC ads during the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire this morning. Both men refused to take responsibility for the commercials, but expressed support for the content of the ads.
Mr. Gingrich challenged Mr. Romney to take ownership of anti-Gingrich ads that ran in Iowa created by a political action committee called Restore Our Future, which is overseen by Mr. Romney’s 2008 political director, Carl Forti, his former general counsel, Charles R. Spies and one of his media staffers, Larry McCarthy.
“Governor, I wish you would calmly and directly state it is your former staff running the PAC. It is your millionaire friends giving to the PAC. And you know some of the ads are in– are untrue. Just say that, straightforward,” Mr. Gingrich said.
Mr. Romney conceded that the ads are being put out by his associates.
“Well, of course, they’re former staff of mine, and of course they’re people who support me. They wouldn’t be putting money into a PAC that supports me if they weren’t people who support me,” said Mr. Romney.
Super PAC’s can collect unlimited donations as long as they maintain a separation from the candidates they support. Mr. Romney has claimed in the past he hasn’t even seen the Restore Our Future ad, but he described watching it in his response to Mr. Gingrich.
“And with regards to their ads, I haven’t seen them and, as you know, under the law, I can’t direct their ads,” Mr. Romney said. “If there’s anything in them that’s wrong, I hope to take it out. But let me tell you this, the–the ad I saw said that, that you’d been forced out of the speakership. That was correct. It said that you’d sat down with Nancy Pelosi and argued for a climate change bill. That was correct. It said that you’d called the Ron Paul–wrong Paul, Paul Ryan’s plan to provide Medicare reform a right-wing social engineering plan. It said that–that as part of an investigation, an ethics investigation that you had to reimburse some $300,000. Those things are all true.”
Mr. Romney denied having the ability to control Restore Our Future’s ads.
“Mr. Speaker, the Super PACs that are out there running ads, Ron Paul’s, mine, yours, as you know, that is not my ad. I don’t write that ad. I can’t tell them not to,” Mr. Romney said to Mr. Gingrich.
Mr. Romney has also been targeted by ads focusing on his time in Bain Capital run by the pro-Gingrich PAC group Winning Our Future, which employs longtime former Gingrich aide Rick Tyler in “key roles.” Moderator David Gregory asked the candidates if they could both “agree to take these super PAC ads down.”
Both men dodged the question when moderator David Gregory asked them if they could agree to remove the ads.
“David, wait a second. Come on, come on,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I’m glad, finally, on this stage, that weeks later, he has said, ‘Gee, if they’re wrong, they should take them down.’ They would, of course–we’ve sent a letter in South Carolina saying–warning the stations to just fact check them before they start running them. But I’m taking his advice. You know–we started to run his commercial from–from 1994, attacking Teddy Kennedy for running negative ads. We thought, ‘No, that would be wrong.’ So instead, I agree with him. It takes broad shoulders to run. Can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Mr. Gingrich also discussed a movie Winning Our Future plans to release about Mr. Romney’s work with Bain. In fact, he displayed a remarkable amount of familiarity about the project for someone who’s legally barred from coordinating with the group.
“When the 27 and a half minute movie comes out, I hope it’s accurate,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I can say, publicly, I hope that the Super PAC runs an accurate movie about Bain. It’ll be based on establishment newspapers, like the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Barron’s, Bloomberg News, and I hope it is totally accurate. And then people can watch the 27 and a half minutes of his career at Bain and decide for themselves.”
Watch the anti-Gingrich and anti-Romney super Pac ads below.
The Iowa ad produced by pro-Romney group Restore Our Future:
“King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came To Town”