Remember when one Republican candidate viciously attacking the leading Republican candidate was patriotic?

Like in Iowa, when everyone from Charles Krauthammer on down blamed Newt’s past for the several millions dollars in negative attack ads run by a pro-Romney SuperPAC?  When National Review devoted almost an entire issue to attacking Newt and portraying him as a martian cartoon character?  When the once-conservative rock star Ann Coulter called anyone who supported Newt a birther?  When the entire conservative Washington establishment (yes, it does exist) engaged in what David Limbaugh called “relentless, unmeasured scorched-earth savagery” directed at Newt?

Hey, that’s just politics, it ain’t beanbag, we were told.

But the second Newt announced he was done playing defense and would make Mitt Romney’s record of flip flops and anti-conservative rhetoric and actions an issue, all of the sudden attacking an opponent was not patriotic, it was a spiteful, angry, vindictive and vengefuldarker message,” the equivalent of road rage.

(added) Krauthammer says Newt is “cares less about winning than revenge,” like “Ahab on the loose in New Hampshire” going after “the Great White Mitt.”

No, actually it is what we have needed for months.

We have an incredibly weak frontrunner, someone who has not been seriously challenged in this cycle as challenger after challenger has had a ton of media bricks and attack ads dumped on their heads.

We have a frontrunner who has shown no ability in the past to withstand the type of attack ads which challenge him on flip-flops and his Bain years.  We have a frontrunner who is so uninspiring that four more years of campaigning in Iowa could not increase his vote yield, and who has turned this election cycle into a search for someone who is not him.

This frontrunner, nonetheless, may be our nominee.  And if he is, the vast majority (I hope supermajority) of people who were hoping for someone else will support him because the alternative of four more years of Obama is unthinkable.

But before we get there, we at least need to know that this time it will be different, that this time he can stand the heat in the kitchen, that this time he will show the fight himself not just through surrogates and SuperPACs.  If electability is his main calling card, we need to make sure that that card does not turn out to be a joker.

The only way to test electability is to test electability.

This comment by a Legal Insurrection reader BurkeanBadger pretty much sums up why it is in everyone’s interest for Newt to go after Romney with everything he’s got:

Any Romney supporters who whine about the almost certain negative blitz coming against Mitt are utterly absurd (and I say this as a Romney supporter). I have long expected it, and it’s more than fair. I just don’t understand why Gingrich didn’t start sooner. Did he really think his gimmick of “staying positive” while merely sprinkling pot shots at Mitt in his speeches would be sufficient?

Bring it on, Newt! (and anyone else). I am fairly confident that Romney will easily withstand even the harshest and most intense attacks. If he doesn’t, he never deserved the frontrunner status in the first place. If he does, he will be a stronger, more tested, more battle ready nominee.

Dissent still is patriotic.  And so is attacking the Republican frontrunner.

Until the Lombardi Rule takes effect.

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