GOP Establishment Tries Playing Nice with Gingrich

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Newt Gingrich hasn't quit running for president even though he's been shut out of Republican fundraising circles and attacked as a socialist egomaniac by conservative pundits, so the Republican establishment is trying a new trick: flattery. Politico's Alexander Burns reports that with his thrice-resurrected campaign, Gingrich has earned something he holds very dear -- "relevance" -- and if he cools it with the harsh attacks on Mitt Romney, all will be forgiven. Burns writes:

Gone are the days of Gingrich as washed-up talking head, spouting off inflammatory and easily ignored rhetoric on Fox News in decidedly non-prime time hours. If he manages to conclude even an unsuccessful fight for the Republican presidential nomination with some dignity intact, Gingrich admirers and critics alike agree that he’ll have reclaimed a place for himself in the center of the national political conversation.

That, skeptics note, is a big “if.” As Gingrich continues to wage an increasingly vindictive-sounding, long-shot campaign against Mitt Romney, he might very well trigger a sense of Gingrich fatigue within the GOP and risk much of the goodwill he’s earned with conservatives. A march to the Tampa convention based on conservative principles could secure Gingrich’s place in history; a bitter personal crusade surely would not.

In other words, Newt, you've been a very bad boy, but if you make nice with Mitt, we'll give you that treehouse you always wanted.

Burns quotes Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former John McCain adviser and director of the Congressional Budget Office under George W. Bush, saying of Newt, "This run has introduced him to a new generation of Americans as an ideas guy… The bad news is, he is just as erratic as he is inventive. " Gingrich should aspire to be a "wise elder statesman voice on the future of the party." Holtz-Eakin has not always been a fan of Gingrich's ideas. On January 25, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin decribed Holtz-Eakin as "somewhat aghast" at Gingrich's attacks on Romney's business career. "Anyone who attacks capital gains doesn’t understand or is deluding themselves about growth," he said. On February 1, Bloomberg's Julie Byokwicz quotes him saying Gingrich's "negative political rhetoric that’s not based on anything, either his own history or his proposed policies... It’s hard to defend on the logic."

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Burns also quotes Republican strategist Keith Appell saying, "Regardless of how Gingrich ultimately fares, his comeback is remarkable and his reconnecting with conservatives and conservative organizations has an almost prodigal quality to it." But Appell didn't seem to see Gingrich as such a visionary December 14, when he compared Gingrich to other fleeting Republican fads like Herman Cain. He told Reuters, "I think people are waiting and seeing to see if (Gingrich) is going to falter like so many of these other supposed front-runners." Today Appell says, "After private meetings with Newt over the past few months, a number of conservative leaders who have had issues with him in the past have defended him, saying the equivalent of, 'We’ve had family disagreements with him from time to time but he has always been family.'" The Republican establishment can't be faulted for this new tactic -- in Gingrich's case, flattery will get you everywhere.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.