2012 Campaign: The Harshest and Sharpest Attacks Of GOP Race

If you're in the market for an insult, the GOP race is ripe with inspiration.

ByABC News
February 21, 2012, 6:24 PM

Feb. 22, 2012 -- intro: If you're in the market for an insult, the GOP race is ripe with inspiration. From veiled swipes at a primary opponent's policies to direct attacks on a general election rival's character, this campaign has been one of the most vitriolic in history.

A full 50 percent of all the ads run so far in this campaign season have been negative, a huge jump from the 8 percent of ads that were negative during the 2008 election.

And while much of the negativity on the airwaves is coming from well-funded, unlimited donation-collecting super PACs, the candidates and their surrogates have done their fair share of bad-mouthing.

Here's a look at some of the mud being slung in this contentious race to the White House.

quicklist: 1category: Gingrich v. Obamatitle: 'Most Dangerous President'text:

While Republican infighting is at record highs, some of the harshest candidate criticism has been reserved for the man on the other side of the aisle: President Obama. The political fury of Newt Gingrich landed squarely on the president's foreign policy platform Monday when the GOP candidate dubbed Obama the "most dangerous president in modern American history."

At a campaign stop in Tulsa, Okla., Monday, Gingrich said defeating Obama was "in fact, a duty of national security."

"Because the fact is, he is incapable of defending the United States," the former House Speaker said.

Gingrich noted that in this "dangerous" world, Obama is failing to deal with international threats.

"The president wants to unilaterally weaken the United States, he wants to cut the aide to Israel for its anti-ballistic missile defense, he refuses to take Iran seriously," Gingrich said.

Gingrich has said the United States should take whatever steps are necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but emphasizes that covert operations to assassinate the country's nuclear scientists should come first.

Obama, on the other hand, has implemented stiff sanctions against the country. His administration is strongly urging Israel not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, as it is threatening to, but maintains that Obama is a strong supporter of Israel.

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quicklist: 2category: GOP Senator v. Romneytitle: 'Too Damaged'text:

As his home state, Michigan could be a make or break election for Mitt Romney in the primary next week. As one GOP senator told ABC's Jonathan Karl, "if Romney cannot win Michigan, we need a new candidate."

The senator, who requested anonymity, said Republicans would "get killed" in the general election if Romney became the nominee but could not even win in the state in which he grew up.

"He'd be too damaged if he can't even win in Michigan, where his family is from, where he grew up," said the prominent GOP senator, who has yet to endorse a candidate.

While there have been few recent polls on the state of the Michigan race, Santorum has eclipsed Romney in the most recent national polls. As of Monday, Santorum stood 10 points higher than the Michigan native in the nationwide Gallup daily tracking poll.

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quicklist: 3category: Santorum v. Obamatitle: 'Phony Theology'text: Rick Santorum took his criticism of the president to the next level Saturday when he accused Obama of operating under a "phony theology."