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As debate approaches, Republicans, conservatives target Newt Gingrich

As front-runner in the Republican presidential nominating race, Newt Gingrich is a natural target for critics. At this point, it's mainly conservatives and fellow Republicans questioning his character and leadership qualities.

By Staff writer / December 10, 2011

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks with a supporter during a business forum, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011, in Greenville, S.C.

Rainier Ehrhardt/AP

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When you’re the front-runner in your party’s presidential nominating race, as Newt Gingrich is today, you must get used to having a bulls-eye on your back.

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To put it another way, Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment – “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” – will be tossed aside as the other candidates and their surrogates pile on like defensive linemen on a scrambling quarterback.

That’s the situation Gingrich finds himself in today as some who served with him when he was House Speaker in the 1990s, Republican strategists working today to oust Barack Obama, and conservative pundits unsheathe their rhetorical knives.

Saturday night is an important point in the GOP’s nominating race – a debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Gingrich will be the center of attention in a smaller group of six debaters, since Herman Cain is history and Jon Huntsman got disinvited because his poll numbers are so low.

The voices of criticism are numerous and growing.

John Sununu, former chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush: “Gingrich “is more concerned about Newt Gingrich than he is about conservative principle.”

Former Sen. Jim Talent, who served in the House when Gingrich was Speaker: “He’s not a reliable or trustworthy leader.”

Sen. Tom Coburn, who also served with Gingrich in the House: “I just found his leadership lacking.” (A year ago, Coburn was quoted as saying that Gingrich is “the last person I’d vote for president of the United States [because] his life indicates he does not have the character traits necessary.")

Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum: “What presidents must inescapably do is respond to emergencies…. And there, what usually ends up mattering most is not the president’s philosophy, but his judgment, coolness and steadiness. Those are the grounds on which [Mitt] Romney reassures and Gingrich terrifies.”

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Some evangelicals have said they’ve forgiven Gingrich for the adulterous relationships that ended his first two marriages.

But not The Rev. Cary Gordon of Cornerstone World Outreach church in Sioux City, Iowa. He’s sent a YouTube video slamming Gingrich as untrustworthy to one million cell phones in Iowa. Gingrich, it declares, is “The Kim Kardashian of the GOP.

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