JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--Of all the insults and accusations that Mitt Romney has hurled at Newt Gingrich in recent days, none has stung the former House speaker so much as the suggestion that he was not a valued and loyal foot soldier of the Reagan revolution.
“I am in fact the legitimate heir of the Reagan movement--not some liberal from Massachusetts,” Gingrich declared at a rally on Sunday. And on Monday, to underscore that point, he is campaigning with Michael Reagan, the conservative radio personality who is the son of the late president and his first wife, the late actress Jane Wyman.
“If his son was prepared to campaign with me, by any person with an open mind, that should settle that question once and for all,” Gingrich said at a Monday morning rally at a hotel here.
But it was Nancy Reagan whose benediction Gingrich invoked. He recalled that at an appearance at the Goldwater Institute in 1995, the former first lady had said: “Just as Barry gave the torch to Ronnie, Ronnie has passed on the torch to Newt.”
Alas, as is so often the case with politicians, Google is not Gingrich’s friend here.
Nancy Reagan did indeed say something like that, but as Commentary discovered with a little digging a few days back, it was not quite the laying-on of hands that Gingrich described.
Her fuller quote reveals that she was describing Gingrich and the entire Republican House: “Just take a look at the extraordinary men and women who make up the 104th Congress, and, of course, this distinguished Speaker Newt Gingrich [gestures to Gingrich]. The dramatic movement of 1995 is an outgrowth of a much earlier crusade that goes back half a century. Barry Goldwater handed the torch to Ronnie. And in turn, Ronnie turned that torch over to Newt and the Republican members of Congress to keep that dream alive. I know that Ronnie believes it will succeed, and that the American people support their efforts.”
Reagan has not endorsed a candidate in the 2012 Republican primary.