Friday, January 20, 2012

Rove-Like Dirty Tricks Appear In South Carolina

In New Hampshire, it was the campaign of Ron Paul who was the victim of a dirty tricks operation to make it appear his campaign was behind a controversial video portraying Jon Huntsman as a "Manchurian candidate." In South Carolina, it is New Gingrich who is the victim of a dirty tricks operation sending fake e-mail messages to the state's Republican voters. One of the spoofed e-mails appeared to be a CNN Breaking News alert claiming that Gingrich's ex-wife had accused him of forcing her to get an abortion before the two were married. A second spoofed e-mail claimed to be from Gingrich himself confessing to supporters that he had once asked his ex-wife to get an abortion. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the details:

South Carolina's reputation as a haven for political dirty tricks reared its ugly head as a pair of e-mails were sent to Republican voters here claiming Newt Gingrich forced his ex-wife to have an abortion.
Gingrich told reporters that whomever sent the emails should be prosecuted and the state's House majority leader, Republican Kenny Bingham of Lexington, called on the state's attorney general to investigate.
The first e-mail, made to look like an official CNN breaking news alert, claimed Marianne Gingrich, the candidate's second ex-wife, alleged he "forced her to abort a pregnancy conceived during the affair that preceeded her marriage to Gingrich," according to a copy of the message obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
CNN acknowledged the email on air Friday, but said the network did not send it out.
The AJC also obtained a copy of a second fake e-mail sent to Gingrich supporters that appears to be a message from Gingrich confessing to the charge. It features Gingrich's graphics and even has an "unsubscribe" option that makes it appear real.
A Gingrich spokesman confirmed that the e-mails are fake . . .
The state has a history of these types of shenanigans. In the 2000 GOP primary, U.S. Sen. John McCain was hit by last-minute anonymous smears that helped deliver the state, and the nomination, to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
These last minute smear campaigns are straight out of the Karl Rove play book. The Jon Huntsman video helped stall Paul's surge in the New Hampshire primary where he finished a distant second behind Romney after getting within striking distance of Romney in the Granite State according to some polls taken shortly after the Iowa caucus. Polls taken in the Palmetto State in recent days have shown a surge in support for Gingrich, who is now leading Romney according to polls released the last couple of days after trailing him by double-digits as recently as a week ago. You have to look at the Romney campaign as being behind these smear efforts in both cases. Karl Rove is backing Romney, although he claims he is not working directly for his campaign so he can pretend to be an objective paid political consultant for Fox News, which has operated as an extension of the Romney campaign the past couple of months.

UPDATE: The Daily Caller has more details on the origins of the e-mails:

The email’s graphics included a message claiming that it was “paid for by Newt 2012.” The sender substituted the number “1” in “2012” with a lowercase letter L.
The email originated from the phony Internet domain “,” which uses the same letter-for-number substitution. The domain was registered shortly after 11 a.m. eastern time on Friday morning, according to records available online. The owner used Domains By Proxy, a division of the Internet registrar GoDaddy that allows anonymous registration and guarantees its customers’ privacy.
The fake email was sent roughly four hours later.
Todd Kincannon, a South Carolina lawyer and former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, received the email at 3:11 p.m. Kincannon told The Daily Caller that he firmly believes the email is a concentrated effort from the campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to squelch Gingrich’s surge.
“If I were on a jury, there would be no doubt in my mind that Romney did it,” he said. “I mean, the circumstantial evidence is there. Romney’s the person who’s trying to stop Newt.”
“Ron Paul wouldn’t do it,” Kincannon told TheDC. “Paul wants Newt to win. Paul thinks he’s got a shot at a brokered convention. I don’t think the Santorum people would do it. It’s just not their style. But it is definitely the Romney people’s style.”

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