It's no secret that the longtime congressman and subsequent Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich ruffled feathers in both parties during his time on Capitol Hill. Gingrich has bragged on the campaign trail about his ideological "Georgia Conservative" purity compared to "some liberal from Massachusetts," pledging that a Gingrich nomination would "change things" and make "the establishment very uncomfortable."
But could the change that the "establishment" fears be that a Gingrich White House would push the GOP more to the center than right?
The Hill reports Tuesday that at several stages of the Georgian's career, Gingrich preached a philosophy and supported candidates championing a "big tent" rather than right-leaning conservative approach for the GOP:
"He backed state Rep. Dede Scozzafava (R) over Tea Party favorite Doug Hoffman in a hotly contested upstate New York special House election in 2009. And he backed a pro-abortion-rights primary foe over Joe Scarborough in Scarborough’s first run for Congress in 1994. The former Speaker also asked then-New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, an avowed centrist, to give the Republican response to President Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union address.'
'It’s impossible to create a right-only majority in America,' Gingrich said at a forum of the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership in 2004. 'The key to electing Republicans to more offices and hav[ing] a bigger majority is to be more inclusive.'
'Gingrich could have one heck of a Lincoln-Douglas debate with himself when it comes to the posture of the Republican Party of the general election,' said professor Jack Pitney of Claremont McKenna College, who has long followed Gingrich’s career. 'There’s Newt the big-tent Republican, the believer in appealing to the center, and Newt the hardcore conservative who wants to appeal to the base and draw contrasts.'”
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond argues that The Hill was "cherry-picking a few races," and that Newt is "the Vince Lombardi of electing House majorities."
Former Congressman now MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough hasn't forgotten about those races or his experiences working with the former Speaker, often lambasting Gingrich on his Morning Joe program:
“'Newt was working against me the whole time. He thought I was too conservative for my district. Nice call, Newt,' Scarborough said on MSNBC last week.
Scarborough has also criticized Gingrich for moving to the center and seeking to work with President Clinton instead of House conservatives on a 1996 budget deal. In a floor speech about the 1998 budget deal, Gingrich blasted conservative holdouts for not supporting the agreement."
The report may not be as damning as Romney's statements when debating Ted Kennedy during his 1994 Massachusetts Senate campaign, that he was “an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush,” but it adds to the growing alarm from "establishment" Republicans and conservative commentators who argue that the former Speaker's record is not as boldly conservative as he would want you to believe.