Gingrich the Surrogate

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Newt Gingrich appeared on CNN this week as a surrogate for Mitt Romney’s campaign, and accidentally told the truth. Pressed on Romney’s lie about welfare policy, Gingrich conceded there’s “no proof” to support Romney’s claim, and he wishes the attack ad had been worded in a more accurate way.

That was Wednesday. Yesterday, Gingrich returned to the airwaves, talking to msnbc’s Chris Matthews about the race and Romney’s search for a running mate. Pay particular attention to the exchange that begins at the 5:52 mark.

For those who can’t watch clips online, Matthews asked why is it that people who spend time competing with Romney, including Republicans like Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani, end up disliking him so much on a personal level.

Gingrich responded, “Well, let me say, first of all, I think that Mitt and I get along fine. We get a lot of stuff done together. And I don’t particularly dislike him as a person.”

Remember, the former House Speaker was there in his capacity as a high-profile Romney supporter. Asked why so many people have an active aversion to Romney, best Gingrich could say is he doesn’t “particularly dislike him.”

This comes a month after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), hoping to generate some support for his party’s presidential candidate, conceded, “The American people probably aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.”

I’ve been keeping an eye on quotes from Romney surrogates for a while, but the problem appears to be getting worse.

Of course, it’s not just Romney’s surrogates who have trouble liking their candidate; it turns out President Obama has grown to really dislike him, too.

At a certain level, this isn’t at all interesting. Obama and Romney are rivals; of course there’s going to be some animosity between them.

But it appears there’s more to it than that.

“One factor made the 2012 grind bearable and at times even fun for Obama: he began campaign preparations feeling neutral about Romney, but like the former governor’s GOP opponents in 2008 and 2012, he quickly developed a genuine disdain for the main. That scorn stoked Obama’s competitive fire, got his head in the game, which came as a relief to some Obama aides who had seen his interest flag when he didn’t feel motivated to crush the opposition. Obama, a person close to him told me, didn’t even feel this strongly about conservative, combative House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Hill Republican he disliked the most. At least Cantor stood for something, he’d say.

“When he talked about Romney, aides picked up a level of anger he never had for Clinton or McCain, even after Sarah Palin was picked as his running mate. ‘There was a baseline of respect for John McCain. The president always thought he was an honorable man and a war hero,’ said a longtime Obama adviser. ‘That doesn’t hold true for Romney. He was no goddamned war hero.’”

As the “Hardball” interview showed, it’s awkward to talk about, especially just a few months before Election Day, but it’s worth kicking the subject around, if only as an intellectual exercise. Romney was governor for a term, and he quickly became widely disliked. He ran for president four years ago, and he was the only candidate all the other Republicans held in contempt. He’s running for president now, and not only do voters find it hard to warm up to the guy, but his own surrogates struggle to praise him in public.

This hardly seems like a recipe for success.

Surrogates, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney

Gingrich the Surrogate

Updated