Newt Gingrich may not have won over all 65 or so of the conservative leaders who met privately with him Wednesday morning at the Key Bridge Marriott. But he didn’t do himself any harm, audience members said.
The so-far uncommitted group included: publisher Al Regnery; Media Research Center president Brent Bozell; several Tea Party leaders, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List ; anti-abortion leader Charmaine Yoest , head of Americans United for Life and Mike Farris, head of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Gingrich came in for combative questioning from a skeptical audience, according to several of those in attendance. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) led off by noting that many saw Gingrich as a big government conservative, while those in the room wanted someone who would sharply reduce government.
Others questioned his bona fides on environmental issues — the old Nancy Pelosi loveseat ad on climate change still rankled. Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute challenged Gingrich’s support for the Endangered Species Act. Veteran political strategist and Reagan administration official Don Devine challenged him on his support for the prescription drug bill.
And there were questions about whether he could win if President Obama went after his “personal life” — though no one brought up his earnings from Freddie Mac. They challenged him on foreign policy and the evils of “nation building.”
Gingrich, pledging that he would have conservatives like them in his administration, apparently parried the questions fairly well, managing a standing ovation when it was done -- but not from everyone.
“Did it satisfy everyone?” asked publisher and direct mail guru Richard Viguerie, who helped put together the closed-press meeting. “Probably not.” But Gingrich did very well, he said. “They may not be ready to sign on board, but he didn’t lose anyone.”
Hey, this is a tough crowd, very weary of being courted -- and then jilted.