MARK STEYN, GUEST HOST: Tonight, although we’re just three days away from Christmas, the Republican frontrunners are not likely to exchange cheerful holiday greetings any time soon. Good evening. I'm Mark Steyn in tonight for Sean with the eyes on Iowa.
Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are sharpening their attacks on one another. And while the former House speaker has called on the negative ad campaign to cease and desist, Governor Romney has reminded Mr. Gingrich that this is merely a warm-up for what the Obama reelection machine will churn out next year.
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MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can go out and say, hey, please, don't do anything negative, but you know, this is politics. And if you can't stand the heat in this little kitchen, wait until the Obama hell's kitchen turns up the heat.
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STEYN: Well, this morning, Speaker Gingrich responded in a big way. Let's take a look.
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have challenged Governor Romney to meet me for 90 minutes in Iowa, next week, anywhere, anytime, time keeper, no moderator.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: And we'll bring all of his negative ads and show them for free and he can explain them.
GINGRICH: And we'll find out tomorrow how he likes the heat.
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STEYN: Meanwhile, today, former president, George H.W. Bush made headlines by announcing he's backing Mitt Romney in 2012. The former president told the Houston Chronicle, quote, "I think Romney is the best choice for us," adding, quote, "I just think he's mature and reasonable, not a bomb thrower." Hmm. He also said of Newt Gingrich. "I'm not his biggest advocate."
Here with reaction is somebody who knows the former president very well. He's the author of Courage and Consequence, Fox News contributor, the architect, Karl Rove. Karl, let's stick with George H.W. Bush for a moment. If you remember, back in 1988, Bob Dole snarled to President Bush, quit lying about my record. Does complaining that the other guy's being mean to you generally work out to be very effective?
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, not really. It makes you sound like a whiner. On the other hand, if you take up things that are in the ad that you find offensive and hammer those, specifically, to show how untruthful they really are, then you begin to get some purchase, then you begin to get some leverage, but simply to say stop saying bad things about me, it doesn't work. That's why you know, this week in Iowa; let's take a look at this just to give a sense of this.
ROVE: In Iowa this week, Mitt Romney is spending $829,000 on ads, both he and his Super PAC. Rick Perry again, his campaign and his Super PAC, spending $718,000 this week. Ron Paul, all from his campaign, $344,000. Newt, all from his campaign, $222,000, and $164,000 from Santorum. So, $2,277,000 being spent.
That is a lot of money in a small state like Iowa. If you were buying television buy on the same level nationwide, you'd be spending $200 million in one week on television. And a lot of this ads -- and part of these ads, part of these ads are all aimed at this guy. So, he's being outspent by a significant margin, spending one-tenth of the money that's being spent this week in Iowa and having about four times as much spent on ads against him as ads for him.
So, the speaker would be better off by not simply whining, but instead, saying, you know what, here's how Romney's lying about me in my ads or here's how Rick Perry's lying about me in my ads. The problem is his ads are principally focused on things like Freddie Mac where it's hard for him to give that kind of point-to-point defense.
STEYN: Instead, he came out and he's challenged Governor Romney to a 90-minute debate about his attack ads, and Governor Romney basically said, get lost. I ain't going to do it. Who wins that one?
ROVE: Well, it helps Newt in the sense that it reminds people that he's done well in the debates this year, but it's a one-day story. I mean, you can't go around and say, why won't he debate me? Why won't he debate me? Particularly, when there've been 13 debates this year.
And speaking of debates, remember, Newt Gingrich failed to show up at the first Fox debate held earlier this year, I believe, in South Carolina. So, there've been a lot of debates. If there hadn't been a lot of debates, this might have a great deal, more salience than it has, but it was a good way for Newt to say, hey remember, everybody, I've been good on those stages.