A generation of Republican politicians recalls listening to cassette tapes featuring Gingrich's talking points as they drove to campaign stops, and dialing in to weekly national conference calls to hear his advice on how to sell conservative programs back home.
"He changed the whole formula here. Candidates were starving for this information, and he put it together," said Rep. Jack Kingston, who called Gingrich the "Godfather of the Republican Party in Georgia."
"He was out running as a Republican and a reformer and challenging the status quo way back when, long before anyone had given him a shot," said Kingston, who backs Gingrich for the nomination.
Kingston remembers attending a Young Republicans meeting in Savannah where Gingrich urged the group to read a history of Tammany Hall, New York's corrupt 19th century political machine. When one member balked at buying the book, Kingston said Gingrich urged them to focus on the grassroots strategies in its pages.
"Maybe what was different about Newt was many of the Republicans back then were content to stay in the party realm for precinct meetings and party functions, the safer stuff," he said. "Very few would run for elective office. And here he was. Not only did he run but he was successful."
Kingston added: "That was his leadership. He would practice what he preached."
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