Gingrich attacks Romney over 'French connection'
Published 14/01/2012 | 05:00
Newt Gingrich has launched a new political attack advertisement against his Republican rival Mitt Romney -- accusing him of speaking French.
The advertisement tries to draw an unflattering parallel with another Massachusetts politician, John Kerry, the Democrat who lost to George W Bush in 2004.
"The French Connection" paints Mr Romney as another tax-raising, moderate elitist who will "say anything" to get elected -- "anything". Over Parisian accordion music, it continues: "And just like John Kerry, he speaks French too."
It then delivers its coup de grace: a clip of a promotional video Mr Romney recorded for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, which he served as chief executive.
"Bonjours, je m'appelle Mitt Romney," he says.
The snippet has already been used several times in a documentary, 'When Mitt Romney Came To Town', released by supporters of Mr Gingrich to expose Mr Romney's "predatory" record as head of the corporate buyout firm Bain Capital.
That attempt to denigrate Mr Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has apparently backfired, with several prominent party figures deriding Mr Gingrich for attacking capitalism and free enterprise.
But Francophobic attacks on Mr Kerry worked in 2004 when feelings about French opposition to the Iraq war were running high.
Republicans even said the senator "looked French" when it was learnt he had relatives in the country.
Mr Romney, who spent two years as a young Mormon missionary in Paris and Bordeaux, does have scope for retaliation against Mr Gingrich on the French front.
Mr Gingrich lived in France for a few years as a teenager and once told a biographer he knew "enough French to survive".
He also wrote a post-doctorate dissertation on 'Belgian Education Policy in the Congo 1945-1960', which contains a number of sources in French in its bibliography.
In 2009, he compared himself to Charles de Gaulle.
Mr Romney has won the first two states on the primary calendar, Iowa and New Hampshire, and could have the nomination sealed if he wins South Carolina on January 21 and the next batch of states.
Mr Gingrich has performed below expectations and is still smarting from a barrage of negative advertisements released against him in Iowa by Romney supporters, which said he had "more baggage than the airlines".
He has been married three times and was fined by Congress for ethics violations in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert, a comedian and South Carolina native, announced that he might launch a spoof campaign for president after one poll showed him ahead of Jon Huntsman, the Mandarin-speaking former Utah governor. (©Daily Telegraph, London)