Here's what Mitt Romney's campaign has come down to: in order to win the GOP nomination, he's attacking Newt Gingrich for using the word "radical" to describe Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare as we know it:
Setting aside the fact that Romney is trying to revive a seven-month old controversy, the thing that's most important
about this ad is that it takes away whatever wiggle room Romney may have had with respect to his support for the Ryan plan—and that will have enormous implications for the general election should the Republican Party suffer the misfortune of nominating Mandate Mitt to the top of their ticket.
As Greg Sargent notes, Romney has in the past been squishy about his position on Ryan's repeal plan. But now that he's bet his campaign on Newt Gingrich's initial opposition to it, his aides are making it clear that Romney would have signed the Ryan plan into law, guaranteeing that there's no walking back on the Ryan plan without also flip-flopping on his criticism of Gingrich.
Romney could conceivably say that while he would sign the Ryan plan into law, he would prefer a different plan for Medicare ... but if he does that, what's the difference between his position and Newt Gingrich's? I guess he could argue that he's more polite in his disagreement with Ryan than Gingrich was, but (a) it's hard to imagine Republicans responding positively to a message of "Oh, I don't like Ryan's plan either, but I'm just nicer about it" and (b) Romney's already said he would sign the plan into law. So even if there is a different plan that he would prefer, I think it's fair to say he now owns Ryan's repeal plan.
Obviously, the key thing here is that Romney has bet his campaign on a radical right-wing plan that is popular among Republicans, but deeply unpopular in the rest of the country. So even if he gets the nomination, it's a huge gift for Democrats.
That all being said, I suspect the ad serves its purpose in going after Gingrich. To a Republican, it isn't merely about Gingrich's position on Ryan's plan, it's also about Gingrich's tendency to get himself in trouble by shooting from the hip. But even if the ad does hurt Gingrich, it's not clear to me that Romney will directly benefit. If all the ad does is cause a little air to leak from Gingrich's campaign, Romney will probably be happy, even if he doesn't gain any ground—everything is relative, after all. But given that it's still a multiway field, Romney does risk driving down not just Gingrich's support, but his own as well.
In the short-term, that's the dynamic I'll be interested in: is Romney able to nuke Newt without nuking himself? Whether or not his gambit works, however, I think Romney has done himself great harm: even if he gets out of the primary, he's now got Ryan's plan hanging around his neck. And as we saw with Kathy Hochul's victory over Jane Corwin in NY26, that plan is a guaranteed loser.
7:53 AM PT: Important note—there's no "I approved this message" disclaimer in this video, which means it's not meant for broadcast. That doesn't change anything about Romney's embrace of Ryan's plan, but it does mean his goal his is to get earned media to pile on Gingrich, which presumably he hopes would limit the amount of blowback to his campaign.