It's not unusual for GOP candidates to link themselves to Ronald Reagan's legacy, but, in this regard, Newt Gingrich has easily outdone his rivals. Newt name-dropped Reagan 55 times in the first 17 debates, versus 51 times for all his rivals combined, says New York Times numbers man Nate Silver. On the trail, the self-described "Reagan conservative" says that, as a junior congressman, he helped create the "Reagan-Gingrich model" of government, even assisting Reagan in defeating the Soviet empire. This week, the conservative media rebutted Newt's claims of kinship, painting him as "a dangerous, anti-Reagan, Clintonian fraud" and digging up quotes of Gingrich verbally thrashing the Gipper in the 1980s. Do Newt's past violations of the GOP's 12th Commandment — "Thou shalt not speak ill of Reagan" — undermine one of his biggest selling points?
Newt was a Reagan backbiter, not an ally: Gingrich has no business "wrapp[ing] himself in the mantle of Ronald Reagan," says Elliott Abrams in National Review. "Far from becoming a reliable voice for Reagan policy," he undermined it. If anything, "Gingrich was voluble and certain in predicting that Reagan's policies would fail," and he "often spewed insulting rhetoric at Reagan" at the exact moments the president needed support, during bitter struggles with the Democrats who controlled Congress.
"Gingrich and Reagan"
Haters are distorting history: I guess Newt did say some harsh things about Reagan — there's audio and video to prove it, says Rush Limbaugh. But I was paying close attention, and I primarily remember Newt "as a premiere defender of Ronald Reagan." I'm not alone. In 1995, Nancy Reagan said her husband had turned the conservative "torch over to Newt." And son Michael Reagan is endorsing Newt this year. So who are you going to believe? The Reagan family, or Romney's "obviously coordinated" hit job on Newt?
"Coordinated avalanche against Newt doesn't match my memory of Reagan years"
These attacks could be potent — in other hands: The "brutal noise-machine attack on Gingrich" might sting a bit, says Alexander Burns in Politico. But "I'm struck by the lack of truly five-alarm names" in the "anti-Newt brigade." Where's Romney's A-list? Bob Dole? Tom DeLay? So fine, "Elliott Abrams is criticizing Newt Gingrich's claims of a close relationship with Ronald Reagan; Nancy Reagan and Ed Meese and Jim Baker aren't." That's why Gingrich is still kicking.
"The stop-Newt brigade"