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Conservatives Decry Gingrich Attack on Romney

Even the most conservative members of the Republican Party are condemning Newt Gingrich’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital, saying the message comes across as anti-capitalist.

“We think Perry and Gingrich are presenting the same vision of capitalism that Obama has,” Club for Growth president and former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) said in a meeting with Roll Call reporters Thursday. “It’s really kind of disgusting when a Republican primary opponent presents the same view. … It’s a disgraceful attempt to discredit the whole system based on snippets of distorted information.”

Chocola added that he is not defending Bain or Romney and explained that his group does not support moderates, championing the most conservative members of Congress such as Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). The Club for Growth spent more than $4 million helping elect fiscally conservative candidates in the Senate and House in 2010, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The group has never explicitly endorsed a candidate in Republican presidential primaries, but has run issue-focused advertisements.

The club is one of several other powerful outside groups, including Americans for Prosperity and the Chamber of Commerce, that in recent days joined the growing chorus of criticism of Gingrich from within the party. The former Speaker’s strategy became the center of conversation after Winning Our Future, a super PAC supporting Gingrich’s campaign, released a 28-minute video depicting Romney as a corporate opportunist who destroyed small business and forced people out of jobs for the benefit of his private equity firm.

Even Rush Limbaugh, the influential conservative radio host who has aligned himself with tea party interests, along with two of Romney’s 2008 rivals, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee, have questioned the strategy.

Colin Hanna, a social conservative who is president of Let Freedom Ring, also predicted the attacks would hurt Gingrich among his set. He was reached while traveling to Texas, where about 150 Christian conservatives were set to gather at a ranch outside of Houston for a two-day pow-wow about who to support in the primary. Hanna attended Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer rally in August, which was financed by some of the same figures as this weekend’s event.

“It’s counterproductive; it goes against the pro-business doctrine,” Hanna said. “This comes from a guy who is widely admired for his intellect, but in this case he’s driven more by emotion than reason.”

This concern was echoed by Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue in a press conference Thursday. “I was very disappointed with the intramural carrying on within the Republican Party … anybody’s look at private equity would have to say he formed a great firm and he had a pretty good track record,” Donohue said. “It’s just been foolish for the Republicans to carry on that line of attack because they are not doing anything other than setting up the ad base for their opponents, and I think you’re going to see it quiet down.”

Gingrich’s campaign did not return Roll Call’s requests for comment.

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