It’s more than just former colleagues. If one were to survey politicos, journalists and others who lived through Gingrich’s years as speaker in Washington, there would likely be a near-consensus that Gingrich will blow up his candidacy through some mixture of arrogance and indiscipline. Those insiders simply don’t believe there is a New Newt. Old Newt, the Gingrich who alienated many of his colleagues back in the 90s, will reassert himself soon enough, they believe.
Those opinions are colored by personal experience with Gingrich during his years as speaker. That’s not the case for most voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and the rest of the primary and caucus states. While insiders remember Gingrich’s low points from the 90s, outsiders remember his triumphs. They remember a Gingrich who had the vision to imagine a Republican takeover of the House when no one else could, and the skill to make it happen. And when outsiders think of the two greatest policy achievements of the Clinton years — a balanced budget and welfare reform — they know Gingrich can legitimately claim a lot of credit for both. So what if he was abrupt with colleagues? Or, for that matter, if he was the target of a Democratic-driven ethics attack? As far as the 1990s are concerned, outsiders remember Gingrich’s high points.