Ending a week in which he tried to put one of his most nagging political problems behind him, Speaker Newt Gingrich returned home Saturday to a robust welcome, acknowledging he had been distracted by his problems and critics.
But Gingrich said he felt “liberated” now that “a political weight” had been lifted from his shoulders. Since he was assessed $300,000 in January for ethics violations, Gingrich has struggled with whether he would use personal funds or money from contributors to pay. Last week, he said he would use a loan from former Sen. Bob Dole.
Sounding some of the same themes he used in his rise to political power, Gingrich vowed to take up the Republican revolution again.
“I need to go out and do what is right,” he said. “I need to talk about lowering taxes, about diabetes prevention and wellness, about volunteerism, saving children who are poor, about stopping drugs, about balancing the budget. If I do that, and I keep doing that, then that resonates with an overwhelming majority of Americans.”
Gingrich was greeted by a sea of smiling well-wishers at two local Republican conventions Saturday - one at a high school in Woodstock, a middle-class suburb of Atlanta, and the other at North Georgia College in Dahlonega.
But in a clear reminder that the speaker has not outdistanced all his political worries, he was also greeted on his home turf with a budding revolt led by Christina F. Jeffrey, the political science professor he chose as House historian two years ago, only to dump her when she became the center of a controversy.
“He’s not leading. He’s not doing anything,” Jeffrey said as she passed out the inaugural issue of “The Jeffrey Report,” a four-page home-produced newsletter that devotes all its space to pillorying Gingrich.
Jeffrey said she and her husband, Robert, also a political scientist, represented a sizable number of conservatives in Gingrich’s district who have grown disenchanted with him over his “move to the left.”