Newt Gingrich Punches Hard at Ron Paul

After several brutal attack ads from his surging rival, Gingrich says he couldn't vote for Paul, who he says is not 'a serious person.'

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Newt Gingrich has finally found a politician he considers even worse than the president he calls socialist, anti-colonialist and radical. That would be his fellow Republican Ron Paul.

"I think Barack Obama is very destructive to the future of the United States. I think Ron Paul's views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American," Gingrich said Tuesday in a CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer.

Could he vote for Paul? "No." If it came down to Paul vs. Obama? "You'd have a very hard choice at that point."

Gingrich's fencing with Mitt Romney seems like an afternoon at a gentleman's club compared with his slams on Paul. "As people get to know more about Ron Paul, who disowns 10 years of his own newsletter, says he didn't really realize what was in it, had no idea what he was making money off of, had no idea that it was racist, anti-Semitic, called for the destruction of Israel, talked about a race war - all of this is a sudden shock to Ron Paul?" he asked. "There will come a morning people won't take him as a serious person."

Right now in Iowa, the week before the state's Jan. 3 caucuses, Paul is a very serious person - in the top tier along with Gingrich and Romney and playing aggressively to win. "If Dr. Paul will have to soldier on without Newt's vote, then so be it," Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement. He called Gingrich "a divisive, big-government liberal who is unelectable" and his attack on Paul a "childish outburst."

Paul's supporters have complained for months that Paul wasn't getting the attention he deserved. Now that he's within reach of an early-state victory, the media scrutiny and attacks from rivals are escalating rapidly.

Michele Bachmann piled on Paul in an interview Tuesday with Rodney Hawkins of National Journal and CBS News. She cited "racist statements" in Paul's newsletters and said he is indifferent about the prospect of Iran having a nuclear weapon. "Ron Paul would be dangerous for the United States on foreign policy," she said.

Gingrich unloaded on Paul after Blitzer showed a tough Paul attack ad accusing Gingrich of "serial hypocrisy." Gingrich said Paul's "total record of systemic avoidance of reality" makes him unthinkable as a president. He is, Gingrich said, "a person who thinks the United States was responsible for 9/11, a person who ... wrote in his newsletter that the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 might have been a CIA plot, a person who believes it doesn't matter if the Iranians have a nuclear weapon."

Gingrich declared twice during the interview that Paul won't get the GOP nomination. Benton countered with the rhetorical equivalent of "neither will you."

Conservatives and Tea Party activists are fleeing Gingrich due to his support for TARP and an individual insurance mandate (which he has since renounced), Benton said, while independent voters "are horrified by Newt's history of ethics violations, insider pay-to-play politics and influence peddling."

It isn't New Year's Eve yet, but it's safe to say the holiday season is over.

Image: Jim Young / Reuters

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Jill Lawrence is a national correspondent at National Journal. She was previously a columnist at Politics Daily, national political correspondent at USA Today and national political writer at the Associated Press.

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