Republican candidates have ``a great issue'' in America's immensely expensive savings-and-loan crisis, says the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Although both parties are politically vulnerable, ``Republicans ought to be on the offense,'' Mr. Gingrich adds, ``... because there are more powerful Democrats, with more at risk, than there are Republicans.''

It is the second time in a week that Democrats have been the target of a high-level Republican blast over the S&L debacle, now expected to cost between $150 billion and $500 billion to clean up. Earlier this week the Republican National Committee infuriated Democrats by running a blame-Democrats advertisement in the Mobile, Ala., Register while the National Governors' Association was meeting there.

Treasury undersecretary for finance Robert Glauber says it is impossible to know what the ultimate cost of the S&L bailout will be.

Whatever the total, Gingrich told a Monitor breakfast that ``it is the largest white-collar crime in American history. It is a financial fiasco.''

Gingrich, with a reputation for sharp partisanship, says initial blame for the S&L mess lies with the Carter administration, on grounds that supervision of the S&Ls was weakened then.

Congressional elections are only three months away, and partisanship on many issues is rising - from the federal budget to farm bill to S&Ls. In each case, Gingrich leveled criticism at congressional democrats.

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