VOTE 2012

Newt Gingrich's surge in polls leaves some Republicans nervous

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Scores of congressional Republicans are staying out of the contest, including some whose work with and respect for Gingrich go back decades. Among those, the hesitation comes from uncertainty, they said. Many offered respectful words but refused to say whether the former speaker would make an effective opponent to Obama or, perhaps, an effective president.

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

"Well, that's not up to me to judge," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who has endorsed Romney. "All I can say is Newt is a wonderful idea man. He's not as good about implementing ideas. He moves from issue to issue really fast. And in some ways that's good, but you got to be able to implement" ideas.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the party's 2008 nominee against Obama, issued a classic non-endorsement.

Would he be pleased to see Gingrich win the nomination?

"Look, I respect the process," McCain said. "I think it (would be) quite an achievement."

Gingrich is not without allies and admirers on Capitol Hill.

At least six members of Congress have endorsed him, and Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia is trying to set up a meet-and-greet with uncommitted members next week.

And Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who was a rookie House member when the GOP won Congress in 1994, said he sees Gingrich as a throwback to the old days of bipartisan lawmaking for which so many lawmakers and Americans say they yearn. Behind closed doors, Portman recalled, Gingrich is an apt negotiator. And he does focus, Portman said.

"He does have a history of managing through a tough issue and coming up with a result," Portman, who intends to stay neutral in the nominating fight, said Wednesday. He was careful to mention that he thinks Romney would do just as well at governing.

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