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Newt Gingrich's rise – and fall – tied to his reign as House speaker

After leading in some polls, New Gingrich has fallen out of favor with most Republican voters – especially in the key state of Iowa. He's taken a drubbing in negative ads, and much of the response from lawmakers who served with him in the House has been more criticism or silence.

By Staff writer / December 31, 2011



Washington

The face of the GOP Revolution in 1994, presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, now plunging in some polls, has had little help from the former House colleagues he led out of the wilderness.

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After leading in the Iowa polls last month, the former House speaker has taken a drubbing in negative ads, mainly referencing his character and fitness for office. The response from lawmakers who served with Mr. Gingrich has been, for the most part, more criticism or silence.

A new NBC/Maris poll, released on Friday, has Gingrich with a 13 percent approval rating by Iowans likely to go to Tuesday’s caucus, down from 26 percent in the last poll in late November. In a highly fluid race, that leaves him roughly tied for third with former US Sen. Rick Santorum (R) of Pennsylvania at 15 percent and Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 14 percent. More than 1 in 3 respondents told pollsters that Gingrich would be unacceptable as the GOP nominee.

Former Rep. Bob Walker (R) of Pennsylvania, a longtime Gingrich ally, says that the campaign has yet to mobilize Gingrich supporters or surrogates on Capitol Hill, while rival campaigns have amplified the voice of his detractors.

“The campaign has not really organized them at this point, but there is an attempt to get them out on the surrogate circuit,” he says. “There are a lot of people who served with Newt who have supported his candidacy and endorsed him.”

“The Romney people organized their surrogates to attack Newt,” Walker adds. “Some [House members] bear grudges from the time Newt was in power.”

In early December, the pro-Romney group Restore our Future, which is not required to identify donors, announced a $3.1 million ad campaign in Iowa, mainly targeting Gingrich. Groups supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas also generated a flood of negative anti-Gingrich ads. Anti-Gingrich ads accounted for nearly half of the ads that Iowans saw in December, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group in Washington.

The ads target Gingrich for accepting consulting fees from home mortgage backer Freddie Mac and paying $300,000 in fines related to an 89-count corruption investigation during his tenure as speaker.

“I wouldn’t vote for the person they’re describing,” said Gingrich, at a “CafeMom” event in Des Moines on Friday. “But I would be ashamed to run some of the ads they’re running. And I will not participate in that kind of process.”

It’s a sharp turnaround for a lawmaker seen as spearheading a sharp spike in negative, personal attacks during this tenure in the US House.

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