Every candidate knows what you're supposed to say when you come out to speak to your supporters after a loss. This was a great effort! I'm so proud of everyone who worked so hard! Whatever happens, our fight for the things we believe in goes on! As trite as it may be, having been repeated so many times, it actually does make the staffers, volunteers, and supporters feel a little bit better.
But Newt Gingrich is no ordinary candidate. So after coming in a distant fourth place in the Iowa caucuses, he emerged swinging. He said he was "drowned in negativity," and that the negative ads targeted at him were "shameful." He attacked Ron Paul, saying his views are "stunningly dangerous for the survival of the United States." He called Mitt Romney a "Massachusetts moderate" (horrors!) who "would be pretty good at managing the decay" but won't change Washington. He also said that while he won't run "nasty ads," "I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative, that may be more a comment on his record." If that weren't enough, he departed the stage to "Eye of the Tiger," so you know he's ready to throw down.
There's an interesting moment now arriving with respect to Romney. As always, most Republicans don't much like him. But it also seems clear that it's going to take some pretty dramatic events to make anybody but Romney the nominee. So they're not going to want him to get beat up too badly. And the criticisms Santorum and Gingrich will make of Romney will be the same criticisms the Obama campaign will make of him in the fall.
It must be noted that Newt is right about being drowned in negativity. He was absolutely savaged in Iowa by super PACs supporting Romney. So it's little wonder that he's pretty pissed off. We often think of politicians as making clear-eyed political calculations that might be smart or dumb, but they aren't driven by something as base as the candidate's anger. But Newt is obviously angry at the way he was assaulted, and to a degree he has a right to be. On one hand, it's all in the game, as Omar Little would say. On the other hand, it's no fun to have quasi-anonymous groups hit you with millions of dollars in ads, when you know you don't have the money (or the supporters with the money) to respond in kind.
So Newt is angry and is signaling his intention to tear Romney a new one as the campaign proceeds. But there's only so much he can do—no billionaire is going to plunk down millions for an anti-Romney super PAC to attack the guy who looks to have the nomination all but sewn up. That means all Newt has to wage this battle is his mouth. Which has gotten him this far, so who knows?