Mitt Romney vs. the Newtron Bomb

Gingrich's attacks on Romney aren't really about the country, and are not really about the Republican Party. They're about revenge.

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By all accounts, Newt Gingrich is about to get pummeled in New Hampshire, after just getting pummeled in Iowa. The former Speaker, once flying high as the national GOP front-runner, was brought low with a disappointing fourth place finish in Iowa. With John Huntsman and Ron Paul duking it out for the second and third place finishes, he'll likely also place fourth in New Hampshire, in large part due to a barrage of Mitt Romney SuperPAC funded ads.

Many following the New Hampshire primary expected the weekend debates would have changed the game. Surely the uber-aggressive Gingrich was going to gut Romney faster than a corporate raider guts a Mid-western factory. What happened to the Gingrich vs Romney Rumble in the Granite Jungle we were all expecting to see on Saturday and Sunday?

Newt's unexpectedly restrained performance proves that the former speaker is as complex, inscrutable, and fascinating a character as exists on the modern political scene. But could this really be happening? Could Newt be walking meekly into another drubbing in New Hampshire, turning the other cheek, perhaps inspired by his new found Catholicism?

In a word: No. Gingrich may be Shakespearean, but he's less Iago than Godfather. His icy demeanor this weekend in the face of the rage that we know is bubbling inside of him reminded me a famous scene from the movie -- a scene that sums up a certain concept of honor, of revenge, and of negotiation. In it, Singer Johnny Fontaine asks the Godfather for help landing a leading role in an upcoming film. The Godfather agrees and dispatches consigliere Tom Hagen to Hollywood in order to make studio head Jack Woltz "an offer he can't refuse." Hagen presents Woltz with a generous offer. The Godfather will finance the entire movie if only Woltz casts Fontaine in the role. Woltz angrily refuses. One morning shortly thereafter, Woltz wakes up to find himself and his bed drenched in blood. He pulls back the covers to find the severed head of his prized racehorse.

Newt made Romney a generous offer. If Mitt would call off the Super PAC, Newt would stay positive and run an "ideas-oriented campaign." Mitt refused and even taunted Gingrich, saying: "This ain't bean-bag," in the "Meet the Press" debate over the weekend, in essence telling Gingrich to grow a pair. Well, this week Mitt woke up next to a horse's head.

On Monday, all became clear. Gingrich was smug and restrained over the weekend because he knew that the first missiles were ready to launch. Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson had contributed $5 million to Gingrich's Super PAC, Winning Our Future. $3.5 million dollars worth of ads were going up in South Carolina. But more importantly, Winning Our Future had bought the rights to a 30-minute documentary about the job-killing destruction wrought by Mitt during his time at Bain Capital. Judging by the trailer, this thing is a doozy. It calls Romney "more ruthless than Wall Street" and includes devastating first-hand testimonials. One woman looks directly into the camera and says of Mitt: "I feel that is the man that destroyed us." Another says: "That hurt so bad to lose my home because of one man that's got 15 homes." It's bad. But will it matter?

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Krystal Ball is a Democratic strategist and 2010 candidate for a U.S. House seat from Virginia. She is a commentator on politics for MSNBC and at the Huffington Post. She can be found online on Facebook and at Krystalonline.com.

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