Gingrich Faces Attacks From Within GOP

Newt Gingrich is trying to preserve his rapid rise in the GOP presidential race by defending his most controversial stands without appearing to be the thin-skinned hothead his critics often describe.

The former House speaker seemed to accomplish that goal in Saturday's debate in Iowa. His challenge will be to sustain the strategy while rivals attack him on the airwaves and the ground, and to convince conservative voters that he's their champion despite his occasional departures from orthodoxy.

Polls suggest Gingrich is the likeliest alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney heading into the leadoff Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3. So far, he has reacted with a steely calm.

He may ruffle feathers by telling unpleasant truths, Gingrich says, but he's not such an incendiary politician that he's unworthy of being commander in chief.

In the latest debate, Gingrich admitted wrongdoing and regret in only one area: the marital infidelities involved in his two divorces.

"I said upfront, openly, I've made mistakes at times," he said. "I've had to go to God for forgiveness." Voters have every right to examine such matters, he said, and "people have to render judgment."

Noting that he is "a 68-year-old grandfather," Gingrich added: "I am delighted at the way people have been willing to look at who I am, to look at what my record has been."

The answer seemed to defuse the potentially emotional issue. The debate quickly moved to other topics, on which Gingrich was less apologetic.

He defended his former support for requiring people to obtain health insurance, saying it once was a popular stand with conservatives.

"In 1993, in fighting HillaryCare, virtually every conservative saw the mandate as a less-dangerous future than what Hillary was trying to do," Gingrich said.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was leading the health care effort for her husband, President Bill Clinton.

"I frankly was floundering, trying to find a way to make sure that people who could afford it were paying their hospital bills, while still leaving an out so libertarians could not buy insurance," Gingrich said. "It's now clear that the mandate, I think, is clearly unconstitutional. "

Mandated health insurance is at the heart of the 2010 federal law passed at President Barack Obama's urging, and many conservatives despise it. It also is featured in the Massachusetts law pushed by Romney when he was governor.

The other GOP candidates painted both men as too liberal on the topic.

"Newt Romney" will be unable to challenge Obama credibly on health care, said Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Romney has stayed at or near the top of the GOP polls for months, while others rose and fell. He has more money and organization than Gingrich. But some conservatives still revere Gingrich for his role in the 1994 Republican takeover of the House majority, and for his decades of writing books and making speeches about his political philosophies.

Romney renewed his effort to portray Gingrich as too erratic and bombastic to be president. The topic was Gingrich's recent assertion that Palestinians are an "invented" people, a description that suggests Palestinians have no legitimate claim to their own state in the Middle East. That would run counter to long-term U.S. policy and to Israeli efforts to find a two-state solution to the region's turmoil.

It was "a mistake on the speaker's part," Romney said. "We're going to tell the truth, but we're not going to throw incendiary words into a place which is a boiling pot when our friends, the Israelis, would probably say, `What in the world are you doing?'"

"I'm not a bomb thrower, rhetorically or literally," Romney said.

Gingrich didn't back down. "I feel quite confident an amazing number of Israelis found it nice to have an American tell the truth," he said.

Gingrich cast himself as a risk-taking, unorthodox politician in that regard, but at other times he played by the rules. He made a pitch to supporters of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum by praising the two on constitutional and Iran policies, respectively.

As before, Romney contrasted his many years as a businessman with Gingrich's two decades in Congress and lengthy career as a Washington-based consultant.

Gingrich shot back: "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994" in a Senate race.

The debate offered one of the last chances for second-tier candidates to gain traction before voting starts in Iowa and, one week later, in the New Hampshire primary Jan. 10.

Perry avoided the gaffes that have hurt him before, and reasserted his claim to be a job-creating leader with no Washington ties. The nation needs lower taxes, less regulation and more common sense, he said, "and an outsider like Rick Perry is going to do that."

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas drew loud cheers from fans of his libertarian philosophies. Iowa Republicans say it's conceivable that Paul could win in Iowa next month.

But many party insiders say Paul's positions are too radical for mainstream America. Examples include his call for extraordinarily deep cuts in federal spending and services.

"If we took that oath of office seriously in Washington," Paul said in the debate, "we'd get rid of 80 percent of the government."

With former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman skipping the debate and businessman Herman Cain gone from the race, the stage contained only six candidates. That gave Bachmann and Santorum, who have struggled in the polls, a bit more time before the cameras.

Given the campaign's ups and downs, and Romney's inability to pull away, perhaps Bachmann or Santorum will make a late surge. But Gingrich is drawing the main attention for now. His calm-but-unapologetic style will be tested over the next three weeks.

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  • by Anonymous on Dec 15, 2011 at 04:21 PM
    I absolutely loved the president'­s take on the Repub primary in his recent "60 Minutes" interview. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who the Repub nominee is. They all share the same basic political philosophy that is a proven failure and is harmful to America.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 15, 2011 at 04:16 PM
    This just in, Republican­s remember who Newt Gingrich is. At this rate, they will be asking Sarah Pali­n to get back in the race before the end of this year.
  • by Obama Snake Oil co Location: Washington on Dec 15, 2011 at 03:31 PM
    You see, the problem is you go to Huffpost for facts....there are no facts at Huffpost as they are paid by George Soros and other liberal supporters to post BS. However, you posted it, you believe it so you are no different than they. I read the same thing but was not stupid enough to post it after I found it was not factual...but you however, did so, keep that day job and don't burn the burgers or fries;
  • by to osoc, So the GOP are for the middle class? Try another of your spins on this one on Dec 15, 2011 at 10:55 AM
    REPUBLICAN IDEAS...CUT: 650 billion -- Special education, student aid, asst to low-income schools GIVEN TO RICH: 690 billion – Bush tax cuts for wealthiest 2%*****CUT: 310 billion -- National Institutes of Health GIVEN TO RICH: 321 billion – Extra benefits for itemized deductions for wealthiest­*****CUT: 100 billion -- Center for Disease Control and FDA GIVEN TO RICH: 129 billion – Subsidies for foreign profits*****CUT: 98 billion -- Head Start and Child Care GIVEN TO RICH: 97.5 billion -- Subsidies for business inventorie­­­s*****CUT: 47 billion -- Energy grants for low income families GIVEN TO RICH: 44 billion -- Subsidies for oil and gas programs*****CUT: 20 billion -- Job training for unemployed adults GIVEN TO RICH: 21.4 billion -- Loophole for hedge fund/priva­­­te equity fund managers*****CUT: 11 billion -- After school tutoring programs GIVEN TO RICH: 10 billion -- Tax break on loans for vacation homes and yachts***** want more?
  • by Woodsy Owl on Dec 15, 2011 at 10:48 AM
    Where is your "generic" candidate? You have already lost Palin,Trump,Huckabee,Bachmann,Perry,Cain,etc,etc, ha ha , your candidate better come forward...time is running out! "Give a Hoot, Dump a Newt" BTW, did you catch Herman Cain interview with Barbara Walters? Secretary of Defense???The man is a blooming idiot, and he WAS one of YOUR generic candidates!!!!
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Dec 15, 2011 at 06:38 AM
    Ya'll, have a good cry, its over no matter what gop runs...anybody but Obama; A generic Republican candidate leads President Obama by five points in a hypothetical Election 2012 matchup for the week ending Sunday, December 11. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely U.S. Voters finds the generic Republican earning 47% support to Obama's 42%. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided. Gallop; PRINCETON, NJ -- Registered voters by a significant margin now say they are more likely to vote for the "Republican Party's candidate for president" than for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, 47% to 39%. Preferences had been fairly evenly divided this year in this test of Obama's re-election prospects.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 05:19 AM
    Gingrich will never defeat Obama, to many shady past incidents, better focus on Romney, but even the Repugs don't like him either. You guys don't have a candidate, less than 11 months to go. Better run that imaginary "generic" candidate Snake Oil is always ranting about. Good luck with that....winky wink.
  • by Geeszzz on Dec 13, 2011 at 05:16 PM
    Gingrich is among the worst of political liars that would sell his mothers soul if he thought it would benefit his political aspiration­s. Only fools would give anything Gingrich says as truth. Remember...The higher a Jerk climbs on a pole, the more you can see his "ascot".
  • by Just saying on Dec 13, 2011 at 05:13 PM
    Newt Gingrich has proved over and over again that he will do anything to get a vote. Arafat has been embraced by other American politician­s so it would be unfair to single him out unless he is unable to satisfacto­rily explain his apparent shift in position. This guy is dangerous for other reasons. His ego doesn't match his intellect. He thinks he is the smartest guy in any room he enters. That's a disaster waiting to happen.
  • by Wolfgang Location: Chocowinity,NC on Dec 12, 2011 at 07:01 PM
    Obama Lies Again & Again. The Lies that matter most are the ones related to the biggest issues. Obama’s attempts at Government Health Care is a huge takeover of the private sector. Health Care is an issue that NEEDS transparency. The American People need to know what is really going to happen with Health Care. Backroom deals by the Democrats are not acceptable. Candidate Obama was aware of this and that’s why he promised transparency. He promised that health care meetings would be aired on c-span. The truth is, that the the Democtratic 2009 house and senate have created bills and meetings are being held in private without C-Span cameras as promised. All done behind close doors! Perhaps president Obama just thinks that C-SPAN is biased like Fox news and we should do away with it? I will cose Gitmo within one year. You people voted for a Con Man. Don't you feel you got Hussein lied too like the rest of us?
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