Nightly News | December 09, 2011
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There are just 25 days to go until the Iowa caucuses . That's when the campaign season becomes real for a lot of people. And it's getting real rough in the normally polite Republican Party . Newt Gingrich is surging. He's ahead in national polls. He's ahead in Iowa and South Carolina and Florida . That makes him a very big target right now. There's at least one other candidate in this race who feels this ought to be his, and that's Mitt Romney . And there are a lot of other Republicans willing to lined up -- line up and stand up against the former House speaker . It means Saturday's debate will be interesting. It means the next 25 days will be interesting. We've got it all covered tonight, beginning with our political director Chuck Todd in Washington . Hey, Chuck. Good evening.
CHUCK TODD reporting: Good evening, Brian . Well, you know, on the eve of the first debate with Newt Gingrich as the front-runner, the anti- Newt drumbeat is growing louder and more personal. A Washington -based super PAC supporting Mitt Romney is saturating Iowa tonight with this new ad attacking front-runner Newt Gingrich on multiple fronts.
TODD: This follows a week of attacks by former and current members of Congress , influential conservative and establishment columnists, starting with George Will who wrote, " Gingrich embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive."
TODD: David Brooks in The New York Times , "He would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated." And today, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan , "He is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, 'Watch this!'"
TODD: Many who served with Gingrich are now working against him.
Former Representative SUSAN MOLINARI (Republican, Romney Supporter): I think there are those people in Washington who have worked with Newt and who know Newt , for better or for worse , who feel, quite frankly, that we have an obligation to talk about what our experiences are.
TODD: Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole , neutral in the GOP race, explains the collective anxiety.
Representative TOM COLE: The speaker, you know, is a -- is a pretty polarizing figure on occasion. Not just, you know, in the broad political sense but personally.
TODD: Gingrich this week has responded to the attacks unapologetically.
Former Representative NEWT GINGRICH: (From CNN/" The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer ): I wasn't there in a collegial job. I was there as the leader and my job was to drive through change on a scale that Washington wasn't comfortable with.
TODD: And Rush Limbaugh believes the more the party regulars attack the stronger Gingrich gets.
Mr. RUSH LIMBAUGH: Republican primary voters are finally saying to the establishment, 'We're not doing it your way this time.'
TODD: You know, the challenge for Gingrich , of course, Brian , is turning these insider attacks to his advantage. And there's some evidence that it might work.
WILLIAMS: All right. And, of course, watch Ron Paul in Iowa among other things. Chuck Todd starting us off in our Washington bureau. Chuck , thanks.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Also in Washington tonight, the