Apparently, in the G.O.P. primary, you’ll get farther joking about Bloomberg’s money than accepting his support
CONCORD, N.H.—More than once on the campaign trail, Newt Gingrich has unfavorably compared his rival Mitt Romney, whose campaign and allies bankrolled the attack ads that sunk the former speaker in Iowa, to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who Gingrich says bought his mayoral elections.
"It does not stop [Bloomberg] from contributing to our super P.A.C.," said Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond in the spin room after this morning's debate, interrupting a question about Gingrich's criticism of Bloomberg.
"He can spend the kind of money he did, on his race, and contribute to our campaign," Hammond said. "His wife and him"—here he was presumably referring to the mayor's girlfriend—"are both capable of donations up to $2,500 dollars. They can give for the general and the primary. They've done very well, if they'd like to be very generous with some of the outside organizations, that would be tremendous."
Then Hammond got serious, sort of.
"But at the end of the day, if you look at the cost per vote of the New York mayor's race and you look at the cost per vote of the super P.A.C.s in Iowa—my favorite number is the cost per vote of the additional votes Romney got from '08 to '12—those are some pretty big numbers," he said.
During this morning's debate, Gingrich and Romney engaged in an extended back-and-forth over the role of Romney's super P.A.C. supporters, who punctured Gingrich's lead in the polls with a barrage of negative ads in Iowa. Romney initially said he hadn't seen the ads, before offering a rather detailed review of their criticisms.
"I thought it was very interesting that he said he hadn't seen them but could recite the script," Hammond said.
I asked Hammond why Gingrich had decided to go after the mayor, an independent who was first elected mayor as a Republican, and was elected to a third term on the Republican line.
"I don't think Newt spends a lot of time evaluating the politics of the good mayor," Hammond said.
In the opposite corner of the spin room, John Weaver—an adviser to Jon Huntsman, whose bid for the Republican nomination Bloomberg revealed a preference for in a radio interview this week—had a similar reaction.
"Did he send some money?" Weaver interrupted as soon as I mentioned Bloomberg's seeming show of support.
"$2,500, I hope," joked an aide behind him.
"Put some more zeroes on that," Weaver said, before assessing the impact of Bloomberg's kind words.
"We're putting together a broad-based coalition, " he said. "But at the end of the day, I'm not a big believer that endorsements really matter that much. You know, support is not transferable, particularly in an election cycle where voters are so frustrated with Washington and insiders and that kind of thing. We'd be proud to have anybody's support. At the end of the day, this is about Jon Huntsman's vision vis a vis Mitt Romney's and the other candidates in the race."
Huntsman has made New Hampshire the cornerstone of his campaign for the last several months, hoping his moderate positions might appeal to the state's independent voters who are allowed to participate in the party primaries.
I wondered whether, given the fact that Huntsman would at some point need the support of the conservative Republicans who have completely ignored him so far (and given the very apparent lack of seriousness with which Weaver seemed to be taking the prospect of an actual Bloomberg endorsement), they thought Bloomberg's support would hurt Huntsman, on balance.
"Not at all," Weaver said.
As I walked away, he added, "Ask him to send some money."