BOSTON (CBS) – The roller-coaster race for the Republican presidential nomination has taken another surprising turn.
A new poll out of Iowa shows Mitt Romney taking the lead with 25 percent. Ron Paul has surged into second with 20 percent, while recent frontrunner Newt Gingrich continues to fade, now in third with 17 percent.
What’s causing so much turbulence in the Republican contest?
Two things: a field with flawed candidates, and the ability of well-heeled campaigns to take down the frontrunner of the moment with attack ads.
Watch Keller @ Large:
In Iowa right now, it’s an ad blitz by a group of Romney supporters that has sparked a mudslinging battle with Gingrich.
And we wondered: does either side have the truth on their side?
Gingrich put on a brave face for the cameras in New Hampshire Wednesday, but despite his effort to laugh off the attack ads, he acknowledges what the polls show – they’re taking a toll.
“You can’t have 7 or 8 or 9 million dollars in falsehood thrown at you and not have some impact,” said Gingrich on Wednesday.
But are they false? An ad from a pro-Romney Super-PAC is riddled with distortions, according to independent fact-checks like one from the Washington Post, which gives it a four-Pinocchio rating for claims like this:
“As speaker, Gingrich even supported taxpayer funding of some abortions,” the ad claimed.
“I have always voted for the various hyde amendments that block federal funding for abortion,” said Gingrich in response on Wednesday.
That’s abortion except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother, exceptions most Americans support.
The pledge to remain positive hasn’t stopped Gingrich from throwing some low blows of his own.
“If Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees during his years at Bain, I would be glad to then listen to him,” said Gingrich.
That’s a distortion of Romney’s job-creation record as a venture capitalist, which a Boston Globe analysis found was mixed, at worst.
But, unless Gingrich supporters come up with the money to go after Romney on TV, it seems unlikely he can halt his slide or reverse Romney’s advance.
By the way, it also doesn’t help that the Paul campaign has also been running ads trashing Gingrich.