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Monday, December 5, 2011

Insiders, Outsiders, and Newt

Byron York writes at The Washington Examiner:
There's a deep and growing divide in the Republican world between those who are able to reconcile themselves with -- to wrap their heads around -- the possibility of Newt Gingrich becoming the GOP presidential nominee, and those who are not. It's becoming increasingly clear that it is Washington insiders who are having the most trouble imagining a Gingrich nomination, while Republicans outside Washington aren't having a problem.

Of course it's the Washington insiders who have the most actual experience dealing with Gingrich. Just look at what Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who served with Gingrich in the House in the 1990s, said about the former speaker on Fox News Sunday. "I'm not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich's having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership," Coburn said. "I found it lacking often times."

Gingrich has also taken flak from another former colleague, Rep. Peter King. "The problem was, over a period of time, he couldn't stay focused," King said of Gingrich a few days ago. "He was undisciplined. Too often, he made it about himself."

It's more than just former colleagues. If one were to survey politicos, journalists and others who lived through Gingrich's years as speaker in Washington, there would likely be a near-consensus that Gingrich will blow up his candidacy through some mixture of arrogance and indiscipline. Those insiders simply don't believe there is a New Newt. Old Newt, the Gingrich who alienated many of his colleagues back in the 90s, will reassert himself soon enough, they believe.

When outsiders talk about the Old Newt, they're mostly talking about his personal life -- the man who had affairs and is now on his third marriage. "I was all for Newt during the Gingrich revolution, but when he had his affairs, I swore I would never vote again for him for dogcatcher," said South Carolinian Gene Bustard after a Gingrich town hall last week in Greenville. "But as much as I try not to like him, I love what he says."

Lots of voters would say the same thing. They have no memories of personal slights or insider gossip about the Gingrich of 15 years ago. For them, there really is a New Newt -- unless Gingrich himself proves otherwise.