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Newt Gingrich's surge in polls leaves some Republicans nervous

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's stunning surge toward the top of the Republican presidential field has unnerved some Republicans in Congress who remember too well the tumult of nearly two decades ago.

Gingrich has surged in the polls over the past several weeks. (Photo: Associated Press)

"I'd rather have steady," said Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, who just this week made it known that he was backing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney instead of the resurgent Gingrich, the man who led the 1994 "revolution" in which LaTourette was first elected.

Personally, LaTourette said, he has a "hangover" from the days of Gingrich's speakership, when "everything always seemed to be on fire."

In interviews this week, more than a dozen Republican members of the House and Senate wouldn't say — when given repeated chances — that they are confident that Gingrich has the discipline and stamina to outlast Romney and, down the road, face President Barack Obama in a grueling general election.

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Gingrich has had trouble marshaling support from Congress' mass of political insiders. The 1994 "revolutionaries" who turned Democrats out of power for the first time in 40 years as well as more senior lawmakers waver on the question of whether Gingrich would be good for the GOP and the country given his rocky past.

Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, who credited Gingrich with helping push through a transformative farm bill, is among those unsure whether Gingrich-as-nominee would be helpful.

"It depends on what he does," said Roberts, who has not committed to a candidate for the party's nomination.

For his part, Gingrich told CNN late Wednesday: "I wish everybody had loved me. But I'd rather be effective representing the American people than be popular inside Washington."

"My job was to drive through change on a scale that Washington wasn't comfortable with, and you know, if you're a genuine outsider, forcing change, you're going to leave some bruised feelings," he added. "I don't apologize for that. I think I probably learned some more. I think I'll probably be more effective this time."

Gingrich's Capitol Hill days were volatile to say the least.

He was at the helm during two government shutdowns. He had a snit over a back-seat assignment on Air Force One and displayed a management style that his allies said shifted wildly and eroded morale among his backers.

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