Newt Gingrich Bashes Media à la Sarah Palin

Mid-debate tongue lashing makes good TV, but is probably too late to help campaign.

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Newt Gingrich, still not gaining traction in the polls, appears to be employing a distinctly Sarah Palin-eque maneuver: media bashing.

In Wednesday night's debate, Gingrich pulled out his mad-as-hell voice and criticized his media hosts from Politico and NBC for, well, getting the candidates to debate. "I'm frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other," he said in response to a question about Texas vs. Massachusetts healthcare. Gingrich spoke against Obama's healthcare law, but took a moment at the end of his remarks to return focus on the press. "Since I still have a little time left, let me just say I, for one, and I hope all of my friends up here, are going to repudiate"—note, not "refudiate"—"every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other to protect Barack Obama, who deserves to be defeated," he said. "And all of us are committed as a team. Whoever the nominee is, we are all for defeating Barack Obama."

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The rant was reminiscent of the last debate, when he lashed out at Fox News's Chris Wallace for asking a "gotcha" question—another Palin line—about public criticism of the Gingrich campaign's disorganization.

Team GOP 2012 may be a good thought since they are all against Obama, and media bashing is a nice applause line, but there can only be one winner in the end. And the stated purpose of the debates is to help voters tell the difference between the candidates, as Stephen Hess, an authority on U.S. government and media and senior fellow at the center-left Brookings Institution, points out.

"I find his remark totally cotton candy; bite into it, there's nothing there," says Hess, who worked in the White House under Republican Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon. "He's been around long enough to know what reporters are trying to do," Hess adds, explaining that it was odd for Gingrich to criticize the media, which organized the debate and invited him in the first place. "He clearly is not in that first rank, so he's trying to break through, get a little attention."

[See a roundup of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP field.]

Will the effort work? The Gingrich campaign has been talking about a comeback, and, as U.S. News's Paul Bedard reported recently, Gingrich saw a surge in online donations and in some state polls after the last debate. And he is known as an ideas man who is well-versed on policy. But he still polls an average of 4.5 percent nationally, according to RealClearPolitics. That's well behind the front-runners, former Govs. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. It's also behind former Gov. Sarah Palin, who isn't in the race, and Reps. Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann.

It's too early to be deciding the GOP race, of course, since anything can happen over the next few months, but Hess thinks Gingrich's media-bashing strategy is all for naught. "There's nothing he can do to be helped," Hess says. "He's yesterday's flavor."

  • Read Washington Whispers: Newt Gingrich Could Be the New 'Comeback Kid.'
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  • Check out political cartoons on the 2012 GOP contenders.