Gingrich still bucking GOP base with endorsements

Five months after Dede Scozzafava, Newt Gingrich continues to endorse candidates who have antagonized the GOP base.

After doing an ad for embattled Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) in March, Gingrich is now backing Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), who is one of eight Republicans who ditched their party on the cap and trade bill last year.

“As someone who has served with Congresswoman Bono Mack, I can say without hesitation that she is exactly the kind of person we need in Congress,” Gingrich wrote in a Palm Springs Desert Sun op-ed this weekend. “Since her election in 1998, Mary Bono Mack has been a fighter for the people of her district and has strong conservative credentials.”

Many conservatives have not been happy with Bono Mack, though. Her cap and trade vote lingers as a sore spot with the right, and she has referred to herself as a “progressive Republican” and a “moderate Republican.”

The endorsements are particularly notable because Gingrich doesn’t frequently lend his endorsement. While potential 2012 candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty have spread the love to dozens of congressional candidates, Gingrich endorsements are fewer and farther-between.

Gingrich acknowledged earlier this year that he “was wrong” to endorse Scozzafava. But that didn’t stop him from backing Bennett, who faces losing his seat to a conservative revolt, and now Bono Mack.

Perhaps he should have a conversation with his fellow speaker at this past weekend’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Santorum continues to take heat – including at the conference – for his endorsement six years ago of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who was then a centrist Republican.

"The Speaker has one goal in 2010: stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine," Gingrich spokesman Joe DeSantis said. "He is doing everything he can towards that goal."