AdWatch: Gingrich ad targets Romney on abortion

January 11, 2012 - 1:57 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — TITLE: "Changed"

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

AIRING: On South Carolina broadcast and cable stations

KEY IMAGES: Against somber background music, images of a forlorn-looking Mitt Romney flash across the screen as a female narrator accuses him of switching from an anti-abortion position to supporting abortion rights.

"What happened after Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney changed his position from pro-abortion to pro-life?" the narrator asks. "He governed pro-abortion."

"Romney appointed a pro-abortion judge, expanded access to abortion pills, put Planned Parenthood on a state medical board but failed to put a pro-life group on the same board," she continues. "And Romney signed government-mandated health care with taxpayer-funded abortions. Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney: He can't be trusted."

The only sign the ad is from Republican Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign comes at the end, when the former House speaker appears on camera to say he approves of its message.

ANALYSIS: Soundly defeated in two key early contests, Gingrich is signaling he will go full throttle at the GOP front-runner as the race shifts to South Carolina and its primary election on Jan. 21. It may be his last chance to shake things up.

While Gingrich has hammered Romney, with little effect in polls, on his past career as a venture capitalist, the ad may be his most aggressive swipe yet at the former Massachusetts governor. Alleging that Romney functioned as a "pro-abortion" governor, the ad seeks to revive questions about flip-flopping and trustworthiness.

Swiveling from an attack on Romney's past career to an attack on his shifting positions on issues is meant to appeal to South Carolina voters who are generally more conservative than those in New Hampshire and, in particular, more engaged on social issues. But it could also be read as a tacit acknowledgement that Gingrich's attacks on Romney's tenure at Bain Capital haven't yielded much return.

Gingrich's ad will also highlight for the first time an issue that, in 2008, was a key vulnerability for Romney, when he first sought the GOP presidential nomination. Then, Romney's shift on abortion rights made many conservative voters wary of him, but it has yet to become a front-row issue this time around.

For Gingrich, the ad also signals that he will not shy away from taking a more aggressive stance in South Carolina. Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, the first Southern contest of the GOP nominating cycle has a reputation for political mudslinging and bareknuckle politics. Gingrich's aggressive ad is unlikely to be the last on South Carolina airwaves targeting the front-runner.