Gingrich run could bring up bad memories for former colleagues

at 11:09 AM ET, 12/09/2011

If former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) is the Republican presidential nominee, many members of Congress will run on a ticket with a man they worked with two decades ago. Judging by some of their public comments, not all of them would necessarily welcome the idea.

Gingrich was hailed as a hero in the immediate aftermath of the Republican Revolution of 1994, but in the years after a large chunk of his allies abandoned the speaker in frustration. Then-Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) helped organize a failed coup against Gingrich in the summer of 1997; former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-Wis.), who is now running for Senate, helped pressure Gingrich to resign from the House a year later.

To be sure, some of those criticizing Gingrich on the record are considered mavericks, breaking with the party on key issues like earmarks and climate change.

Here’s what Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) said about voting to give Gingrich a second term as speaker in 1997:

“[He’s] fumbling the ball badly ... I certainly believe that Newt ought to get with the program and continue to move in the direction that we all said we ought to be moving in.” At the time, Chabot said he would have considered voting against Gingrich for speaker if another conservative stepped forward.

And from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) in 2010:

“He’s the last person I’d vote for for president of the United States ... His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president.”

Then-Rep. Graham (R-S.C.) said this in 1997 after helping lead a failed coup against Gingrich:

“If I do well in my district, it is in spite of Newt Gingrich.”

After being elected to the Senate, Graham added in 2011: “Well there’s two tales. Transformative ... Then there was the Newt that got us all frustrated and upset and that’s the guy who was erratic.”

Loquacious Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), who is also not the most conservative Republican, said this in 2011:

“Newt Gingrich was a disaster as speaker ... Everything was self-centered. There was a lack of intellectual discipline.”

Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a close friend of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in 2011 remarked:

“Everything always seemed to be on fire.”

2012 Senate candidate Neumann said this in 1996:

On whether he was bothered by the manner in which Gingrich divorced his first wife: ‘’Thank goodness you can’t force me to answer that one if I don’t want to.’

In 1997: “While I support Newt Gingrich’s ideas and philosophy of balancing the budget, less government and lower taxes, I cannot in good faith support his re-election for speaker considering his use of approximately $1.2 million of tax exempt funding for a college course that was used to advance political goals.”

Former Rep. and 2012 House candidate Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), 1998, a year after pressuring Gingrich to temporarily step down as speaker:

"Two numbers symbolize why we need a new Speaker of the House in 1999: 8 dollars and 20 billion dollars. The first is the per-person annual tax cut passed this year; the second is the amount of money raided from the budget surplus to pay for so-called emergency spending.”

Former Rep. and Senate candidate Chris Shays (R-Conn.) in 2011:

“He’s a true entrepreneur in the classic sense ... You can launch the business, but you can’t necessarily run it.”

And Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), who is actually backing Gingrich for president in 2012, said in 2005:

“Personally, I don’t think Newt would run for president. But that’s just my opinion. I think he’s just enjoying the fact that he’s getting some good press out of it, and will go on about his business. ... I doubt seriously that he would run as a favorite son of Georgia since he’s spent most of his time in D.C.”

If we’re missing any notable quotes from former Gingrich colleagues running in 2012, please post them in the comments.

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