JOE CIARDIELLO FOR USN&WRHe's back. A conservative back-bencher who fired up a lackluster GOP and grabbed victory in 1994, Newt Gingrich is being tapped by the newly out-of-power group to help map a return trip. "Unlike anyone else in the party," says a prominent gop insider, "Newt knows how to fight back." A potential 2008 presidential candidate, Gingrich has been meeting with Republicans at closed-door House gop retreats and suggesting ways to squash the Dems.
Initially, the former speaker urged a less in-your-face approach, advising Republicans to put it in idle and wait for the Democrats to "implode on their own," one gop lawmaker tells us. "Newt advised not to get out in front of them too fast, let them make some mistakes," says the lawmaker. Well, it hasn't happened fast enough, and now Gingrich is sounding the attack charge. At a second retreat of conservatives this month, he challenged them to bark loudly and often at Democrats and use parliamentary moves to thwart the opponents. His first order to conservative rabble-rousers: Take over the gop message. Next, he suggested tactics and rules to delay legislation and tricks to trap Democrats. Finally, drop a bomb the media will love. The gop did, slapping Speaker Nancy Pelosi's demand for an "Air Force Three" to fly her home to San Francisco. Says a leadership aide, "He brings up things that we didn't even know about."
With Dan Gilgoff, Linda Robinson, Angie C. Marek, and Suzi Parker