Republican lawmakers shun Gingrich’s presidential bid

Newt Gingrich has failed to land any lawmaker endorsements since rising to the top of the polls, a sign that those who worked with the former Speaker in Congress aren’t warming to his presidential bid.

In contrast, Mitt Romney, another front-runner for the GOP nomination, has announced several Republican congressional endorsements in recent days, including Sens. John Thune (S.D.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Rep. Charlie Bass (N.H.).

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Gingrich had a controversial reign over the lower chamber: He worked with then-President Bill Clinton on welfare reform, but worked against him on the budget, leading to two government shutdowns. He ultimately resigned his congressional seat in November 1998 (officially stepping down in January 1999), after the GOP lost five House seats and he faced a leadership challenge. 

“His tenure as Speaker was turbulent, to put it mildly,” said Jack Pitney, a professor at Claremont McKenna College who grew acquainted with Gingrich in the 1980s. “Youre not going to get a huge number of endorsements from people who actually served under him. Their memories are very mixed.”

Gingrich became Speaker in 1995 after Republicans won 54 seats in the House and took control of the lower chamber for the first time in 40 years. But his tenure lasted only four years.

His leadership style and personality helped lead to the coup that ultimately resulted in his resignation. Some lawmakers have expressed concern that those traits could hurt him going forward.

“He’s a guy of 1,000 ideas, and the attention span of a 1-year-old,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told The Hill in April, before saying he would not endorse Gingrich. “His discipline and his attention to any individual thing is not his strong suit.”

Former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), one of the members of the Republican leadership who tried to push Gingrich out, said the former Speaker was better at coming up with ideas than implementing them.

“I don’t think that the skill set he brings to the table is the skill set of a successful presidency,” Paxon told The Hill in April.

Romney might well have had the endorsements of Ayotte, Bass and Thune lined up for some time and waited until recently to roll them out. But the former Massachusetts governor has 44 lawmaker endorsements and Gingrich has six — according to The Hill’s tracking of endorsements — and only two of Gingrich’s are not from his home state of Georgia. 

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One member who is highly unlikely to endorse Gingrich: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who lost his leadership position — he was conference chairman — after participating in the coup against Gingrich.

“He was not a calming influence, and he left no fond memories,” Rutgers University Professor Ross Baker said of Gingrich. “His tenure was short, and within that brief space was a coup against him that involved, among others, John Boehner. When you consider that there was an important faction of his own party who were eager to depose him, it’s clear that he didn’t wear well in spite of the fact that he brought them in from the wilderness after 40 years.”

That legacy could be keeping Gingrich from earning lawmakers’ endorsements — and could help Romney lock up more establishment support going forward.

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