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Mitt Romney has "no road map" for dealing with Newt Gingrich, a man they never expected to actually challenge him for the Republican presidential nomination, The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Peter Wallsten report. Likewise, The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman writes that "in his newest competitor, Newt Gingrich, the former Massachusetts governor may face a greater threat to his five-year quest for the presidential nomination: a seasoned rival with substantive policy ideas to back up his energetic style." Politico's Reid J. Epstein reports that Romney's advisers claim they aren't scared, "but they’re already rolling out a playbook that shows they know the latest alarm isn’t a drill." Sure, they all write, Romney's people knew how to handle Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry, but Gingrich leaves them flummoxed. And yet, Romney's new plan sounds a whole like his old plan -- his very successful old plan that should maybe get a teeny bit of credit for crippling Perry.

Politico reports that Romney's team is "preparing a robust, sustained attack that tags the former House speaker as a Washington insider and serial flip-flopper who can’t be trusted with the nation’s economy." He's campaigning in Iowa, buying new television ads there, The New York Times reports. The Post explains:

“Is there enough time for Gingrich to self-destruct on his own before Jan. 3, or do you have to help it along? It’s a tough call,” said a GOP strategist who informally advises Romney’s campaign... 

Taking on Gingrich is “going to be a process,” one adviser said. “It’s not going to be an overnight kind of a thing, unless he steps in it. But he seems less likely than the others to do that.” ...

“There’s going to be some need to explain his positions,” [Romney backer and Florida state Sen. John] Thrasher said, noting that Gingrich’s past views on global warming “won’t sit well with the base.”

Hm, why does that sound so familiar? In October, Romney's campaign launched a website -- -- featuring attack ads about Rick Perry's three-decades in office. It aired ads about Perry's moderate immigration record -- for which Perry was booed in a mid-October debate -- including one that linked Perry to former Mexican President Vicente Fox. Those moves came after an earlier round of warnings that Romney just wasn't taking the latest threat seriously enough. On September 1, The Wall Street Journal's Carl J. Kelm reported, "The former Massachusetts governor has thus far been closely identified with the 'let Rick Perry hang himself' strategy, but subtle moves like these suggest that he recognizes the gravity of his situation and plans to be somewhat more proactive." The Los Angeles TimesPaul West wrote in late August, "Romney may be forced to shake up his strategy" and start campaigning harder in Iowa. The day after Perry announced he was running for president, the Boston Herald's headline screamed, "Mitt's Worst Nightmare." The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz declared Perry the winner of an early September debate, writing, "Romney, the former venture capitalist, still has to devise a business plan to knock down Perry’s soaring stock."

Looks like he did. Nationally, Perry's tied for fourth place with Ron Paul at 8 percent. In Iowa, Perry's averaging 6 percent for sixth place. No one wants to give Romney any credit for this development -- Vanity Fair's Brian Burrough explains the many theories for why the handsome and popular three-term Texas governor has failed so spectacularly, including the idea that maybe Perry's back surgery is causing him so much pain he can't concentrate in the debates. But isn't it just a teeny-tiny bit possible, maybe just a minuscule remote outside chance, that Mitt Romney's not the worst candidate of all time? Is it possible that everyone's so caught up in the idea that Romney's hopeless that no one's giving him the credit he deserves for knocking Perry out?

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