SHENANDOAH, Iowa -- With just days left until the Iowa caucus, Newt Gingrich's campaign has become a family affair. It's not just his wife Callista joining him center stage at retail stops anymore. On Friday, his grandchildren Maggie, 12, and Robert, 10, also appeared beside him, along with his daughters Jackie and Kathy.
Some supporters long for the Newt Gingrich of the '90s who could decimate political opponents, especially after an NBC/Marist poll out Friday showed Gingrich tumbling into fifth place under the heavy barrage of negative ads put up by political super PACs.
But soon after the poll results came out -- and before the sun had even risen -- Gingrich doubled down on his vow to run a positive campaign at a 7 a.m. breakfast at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines.
And, unlike past days when he seemed open to straying from that vow if given the opportunity, on Friday there was a high-minded level of seriousness about the way Gingrich talked staying positive and it focused specifically on the grandchildren who were now joining him on the campaign trail.
"Kids deserve somebody better than the current political system," Gingrich said when a man asked why anyone would want to run for president. "And if I have to get beaten up every day in the media, and attacked every day by a bunch of negative ads designed by consultants who know nothing and paid for by people who don't care what they do to this country, I will endure that for these kids."
The former House speaker learned Friday that 45 percent of political TV ads in Iowa in December included attacks on Gingrich, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group. And at the last event of the day in Shenandoah, he challenged voters to prove it's possible to run a positive campaign and win.
"We need to set a new standard in 2012," Gingrich said. "We ought to have campaigns that are worthy of the children. And I would say the candidates that have run the nastiest, most destructive ads -- you show it to your grandchildren. You tell your grandchildren you authorized this. See how much pride you have in your campaign when they see the kind of junk that you're doing. I don't believe the presidency is worth lying for, and I think somebody who will lie to get to the presidency will lie when they are president. And I think that's a very dangerous standard that modern consultants should be setting. And the time has come to stop it and it starts here in Iowa next Tuesday."
Gingrich told the audience his campaign would "figure out how to run a positive campaign which ultimately shames those candidates who are running nasty and vicious ads."
"We haven't quite got it all figured out yet, but we are working on it every day."