Former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich resigned from his speakership just four years after leading the Republicans to a historic Congressional victory. Growing frustrated with his leadership, several Republican congressmen/women planned a coup against him and the Speaker eventually recognized he did not have the votes to maintain power after the GOP lost seats in the 1998 midterm elections prompting Gingrich to step down.
Many Republicans remain lukewarm if not hostile to the idea of Gingrich now representing the party as presidential nominee. Former Senate Majority leader and 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole recently authored a letter, widely circulated by the Romney campaign (Dole endorsed Romney), strongly rebuking Gingrich: “If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices,” Dole wrote. In 1996, the Clinton reelection team ran one ad after another linking Dole to Gingrich, the latter deeply unpopular with independent voters: “in every one of them, Newt was in the ad,” Dole relates in National Review. “Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.”
Republican Senator Tom Coburn, part of the ‘Contract with America’ 1994 class, previously said Gingrich is “the last person I’d vote for for president of the United States” due to his personal flaws and recently added, “I’m not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich’s having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership.”
Rep. Peter King has called Gingrich’s tenure as speaker a “disaster” which was “self-centered” and devoid of “intellectual discipline.” King has endorsed Romney. While Congressional colleague Susan Molinari, another Romney backer, called it “leadership by chaos.”
Dole’s letter has given voice to many Republican worries, as exhibited in the remarks of those who have spoken out: that Gingrich is too unfocused and erratic, shifting from one idea to the next, and too liable toward self-destruction to be the nominee and president.
The doyen of conservative polemicists, Ann Coulter, a Romney supporters, hammers Gingrich in her most recently column, endorsing Romney as the more conservative candidate and electable and offering this admonition on Gingrich: “Hotheaded arrogance is neither conservative nor attractive to voters.”
And, lastly, even President John Tyler’s 84-year old grandson Harrison Tyler has added his name to the mix calling Newt a “big jerk” for his three marriages.
But Gingrich is not without friends. Sarah Palin recently came to his defense and akin to many Gingrich defenders and supporters (albeit Palin has not officially endorsed Gingrich) blames a so-called “establishment” for the effort to derail Newt: “Look at Newt Gingrich, what’s going on with him via the establishment’s attacks,” Palin recently told Fox Business channel. “They’re trying to crucify this man and rewrite history and rewrite what it is that he has stood for all these years.”
The Establishment vs. Newt is a theme the latter’s campaign has appropriated. Speaking at a rally in central Florida, Gingrich recently proclaimed: “The Republican establishment is just as much as an establishment as the Democratic establishment, and they are just as determined to stop us.”
Gingrich was elected to Congress in 1978 and served in the House unti 1999. After that he continued to live in Washington, occasionally offering advice to Capital Hill officials (both public and private) and frequently appearing on news media developing his career as a pundit. Gingrich never moved back to Georgia and maintains his residence in northern Virginia.