Conservative by Association? Gingrich Channels Ronald Reagan

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Conservative by association? That seems to be the tact GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is taking in his effort to paint himself as the conservative alternative to fellow front-runner Mitt Romney.

The former House speaker has mentioned conservative hero Ronald Reagan 55 times in the past 18 debates, more than every other Republican candidate combined, according to an analysis by the New York Times’ Nat Silver.

From touting the work he did with Reagan as a member of the House, to drawing parallels between Reagan’s underdog upset of former President Jimmy Carter and Gingrich’s own resurgent campaign, the candidate has made no secret of his admiration for the former president.

“I am much like Reagan,” Gingrich told CNN in November. “I’m such an unconventional political figure that you really need to design a unique campaign that fits the way I operate and what I’m trying to do.”

But while Gingrich has aimed to draw close parallels between himself and Reagan, a pro-Romney super PAC has tried to put daylight between the former speaker and the former president.

An ad released Wednesday by the Restore Our Future super PAC attacks Gingrich’s plentiful Reagan references, claiming “Gingrich is no Ronald Reagan.”

“From debates, you’d think Newt Gingrich was Ronald Reagan’s vice president,” the ad’s narrator says. “Reagan rejected Gingrich’s ideas. On leadership and character, Gingrich is no Ronald Reagan.”

Silver’s debate-transcript analysis showed Rick Santorum name-dropping Reagan 14 times throughout the past 18 debates. Ron Paul and Mitt Romney each referenced him six times.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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