New Ron Paul attack ad: Will it slow Newt Gingrich's momentum?

If the new Ron Paul attack ad helps him make further inroads against Newt Gingrich in Iowa and New Hampshire, Paul could throw the GOP presidential race wide open, some experts say.

Paul Sancya/AP/File
Republican presidential candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas speak during a Republican presidential debate at Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich., last month.

Ron Paul has released a new attack ad aimed at Newt Gingrich. It’s called “Selling Access,” and it depicts the former Speaker of the House as a typical Washington insider/influence peddler who profited from his time in government.

The ad depicts a young woman touch-screening through various clips and graphs of Gingrich history. It brings up his accumulation of personal wealth, the $300,000 he had to pay for ethics violations while speaker, the $1.8 million he received from the quasi-governmental mortgage giant Freddie Mac, and so forth. It’s quite slick, really. All of Paul’s ads now are – his ad campaign has the quality of a front-runner, not a fringe candidate. Who’s putting this stuff together?

A GOP ad man named Jon Downs, that’s who. Downs is a hardened pro, a veteran of George W. Bush’s victorious 2000 campaign. The Washington Post today profiles Mr. Downs and his efforts for his Texas libertarian client. It notes that some of Downs’s colleagues from the Bush days “rolled their eyes” when they found out who he’s now working for.

The real question, though, is whether Congressman Paul’s broadsides at Mr. Gingrich will have any effect. If polls are any guide, they haven’t so far – Newt just goes up and up in national surveys. Today he’s got a whopping 12 point lead over Mitt Romney in RealClearPoliticsdaily rolling average.

It’s possible they could begin to wear away some Gingrich support, however, as they reinforce the charge that Mitt Romney is also now leveling at Newt – that he has made money from his political connections. And Paul is going after Gingrich with a vengeance. It’s not just the ads – he’s saying tough stuff about the GOP’s new front-runner, as well.

For instance, on “Meet the Press” Sunday, Paul said it was “an immoral thing” for Gingrich to take Freddie Mac’s money.

Paul himself has also started to rise a bit in national polls in recent days. More interestingly, he’s now at 16 percent in the crucial early caucus state of Iowa. That puts him third, just behind Mr. Romney, who’s got 18 percent of Iowa voters at the moment.

With his big campaign war chest, his dedicated core supporters, and his hard-hitting ad campaign, Paul is now poised to be a big factor in the early stages of actual voting, notes The Wall Street Journal’s veteran political sage Gerald Seib.

“A strong Paul performance in Iowa would go a long way toward determining not just the outcome of the Jan. 3 caucuses there, but the path of the crucial phase of the race that immediately follows Iowa,” writes Mr. Seib.

Why? Because if Paul surges into second place, he would make Iowa’s outcome murky, denying Gingrich the momentum of a big victory. That would be good for Romney, according to Seib, because Romney hasn’t made that much of an effort in Iowa, and needs to blunt Gingrich’s charge into the next state to vote, New Hampshire.

Paul also polls well in New Hampshire, adds New York Times polling analyst Nate Silver. So if he does well in Iowa, then builds on that with a good New Hampshire showing, he could muddy the waters for both Gingrich and Romney.

Maybe – just maybe – this would provide an opening for Jon Huntsman Jr. to make serious gains, writes Mr. Silver. In that scenario, Mr. Huntsman could claim that he had supplanted Romney as the safe, electable GOP choice.

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