Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been taking fire from conservative activists and far-right Republican leaders for endorsing Dede Scozzafava, the moderate GOP candidate running in the special election in New York’s 23rd district. These “purists” — including Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Dick Armey, and Bill Kristol — are backing Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, revealing a wider rift within the conservative movement: the tea-party activist base versus “Big Tent” Republicans.
Gingrich explained his support for Scozzafava at a book signing event yesterday: “She is the nominee of the local party, my bias is to be for the nominee of the local party, and I don’t second guess the local party.” On his Fox News program yesterday, Glenn Beck attacked Gingrich. “I couldn’t disagree more with you on this one,” Beck said, arguing, “You vote with a person you agree with most…and it doesn’t matter what party they’re in.”
Last night on Fox News’ On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren asked Gingrich about the “heat” he’s been getting for endorsing Scozzafava, especially from Beck. Gingrich fired back, saying the right-wing support for Hoffman is based on “misinformation” and an abandonment of conservative values:
GINGRICH: I just find it fascinating that my many friends who claim to be against Washington having too much power, they claim to be in favor of the 10th Amendment giving states back their rights, they claim to favor local control and local authority, now they suddenly get local control and local authority in upstate New York, they don’t like the outcome. [...]
So I say to my many conservative friends who suddenly decided that whether they’re from Minnesota or Alaska or Texas, they know more than the upstate New York Republicans? I don’t think so. And I don’t think it’s a good precedent. [...]
And so this idea that we’re suddenly going to establish litmus tests, and all across the country, we’re going to purge the party of anybody who doesn’t agree with us 100 percent — that guarantees Obama’s reelection. That guarantees Pelosi is Speaker for life. I mean, I think that is a very destructive model for the Republican Party.
Conservative bloggers are now going after Gingrich for lashing out at his critics, with the Other McCain writing, “I was disgusted just now to see Newt Gingrich’s appearance on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox News show tonight.” “Newt Gingrich disappointed national conservatives again tonight,” Gateway Pundit added.