Those of us who know Newt Gingrich's rhetorical style well know that there are certain villains he can be relied on to invoke with metronomic regularity: the media, 'elites' of any stripe, and -- one of his favorite targets -- political consultants. The irony of that last one is that Newt himself may have some of the best consulting instincts of anyone in Washington. Here's how he reacted on CNN yesterday to footage from a new Romney ad:
I, frankly, was just startled by the ad you just showed a minute ago in which Romney is in a sense embracing Obama – ‘we both care about the middle class’ – I don’t know why he’s saying that. If President Obama cared about the middle class, why did the price of gasoline go to an all time high? If President Obama cared about the middle class, why do we have the largest debt in American history that the middle class is going to pay on for the rest of their life time? I mean if President Obama cared about the middle class, why have we had the longest period of unemployment since the great depression?
Now, Mitt is probably incapable of getting his hackles raised to Newt-like heights (rumor has it Gingrich can only be felled with a silver bullet). And there's some virtue in that. A little righteous rage goes a long way. People want passion -- but only up to a point. They probably don't want to vote for the Michael Douglas character in "Falling Down."
But the tone of indignation is only part of the instruction on offer here. The key insight -- and the one Romney needs to remember going into the debates -- is that it's okay -- advisable, in fact -- to dispute the premise of the question.