Updated at 9:50 p.m. Eastern:
DES MOINES, Iowa — GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Monday said that a barrage of negative TV ads, largely generated by a Mitt Romney-affiliated Super PAC, has killed any chance of victory in Tuesday’s caucuses — the first formal votes cast in the 2012 race for president.
But hours later, after being chewed out by one of his own campaign workers, the former U.S. House speaker backtracked on what he said was “an amateur mistake.”
It started in the east Iowa town of Independence, where John Bachman of Channel 2 Action News asked Gingrich if he actually thought he might come out on top on Tuesday. Said Gingrich:
“I don’t think I’m going to win – I think if you look at the numbers, I think that volume of negativity has done enough damage. But on the other hand, if the Des Moines Register was right, and there’s 41 percent potentially [undecided], who knows what’s going to happen?”
Even if he doesn’t show well on Tuesday, Gingrich declared victory merely because “I’m still standing.” On continue on to the coming contests in New Hampshire and South Carolina. And he said it was “a victory that I’m still standing.”
Here’s the video:
Many news outlets this afternoon reported only the “I don’t think I’m going to win” portion of his statement. This evening, my AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon was at Gingrich campaign headquarters in Davenport when the former Georgia congressman told workers there that his comments had been a mistake — that he didn’t mean to pull the rug out from under their efforts.
“I answered a question inaccurately this morning and it got to be a little bit of a flurry because I made the amateur mistake of… [using] a compound sentence,” he said. “So I want to explain to my friends in the media and you. What happens is you can cut compound sentences in half, so you drop the qualifier.”
Gingrich said his comments prompted one of his precinct captains to chew him out. The precinct captain, Gingrich said, told him “I should not under any circumstance expect to do anything except potentially win tomorrow night because he was going into his precinct and he was confident that by the time he was done that he would have converted all the people who had foolishly thought they might vote for [Mitt] Romney to be for me.
“I am here to tell you when we have 41 percent undecided in the Des Moines Register poll and if each of you in the next 24 hours will talk to every one of your friends and if each of you will go to the caucus and will make the best possible argument for nominating an experienced conservative with a national record of achieving things, we may pull off one of the great upsets in the history of the Iowa caucuses.”
In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Gingrich tonight will call on Romney to accept responsibility for the ad onslaught, and hinted strongly that he’ll be more aggressive in New Hampshire and South Carolina — the next two January contests. Here’s a teaser sent out by the network:
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider