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GOP Campaign Strategists Worry About Gingrich's Downballot Effect

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“There’s a fear of Newt Gingrich being the nominee for people in New York,” said a plugged-in Republican strategist in the state. “And not just a fear of ‘anyone but Romney,’ but Newt Gingrich is problematic above and beyond that,” the source said, noting the former Speaker’s “negatives.”

North of the Empire State, the apprehension about Gingrich as the nominee is no less intense in the wake of his ascension as the presidential frontrunner after his campaign was written off earlier this year.

Former Rep. Christopher Shays, who served with Gingrich for years but has endorsed Romney, is running an uphill battle to succeed Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) in Connecticut. In an interview, the Republican praised Gingrich for change he brought to Washington, D.C., but said it came with a political cost.

“The problem is, because Newt tried to bring so much change to Washington, and because of his flaws, he would have mixed results in some states. He wouldn’t run as well in Connecticut because some people are afraid of him, some people dislike him and some people, who are partisans, resent the fact that he actually got the Republicans to stick their head above the ground,” Shays said.

In Massachusetts, where Sen. Scott Brown (R) faces a tough re-election fight, having the former governor at the top of the ticket could help. One poll taken this month showed Romney with a 40 percent favorable rating in Massachusetts. Just 22 percent of Bay Staters had a favorable view of Gingrich.

In New Hampshire, Republican Reps. Frank Guinta and Charles Bass face tough races and will need all the help they can get. Romney has all but become a Granite State resident — he owns a home on Lake Winnipesaukee and has been campaigning there for many years. For a number of reasons, New Hampshire Republicans see Romney as the nominee who is best-positioned to help their vulnerable Members.

“If he’s head-to-head with Obama, he’s really going to pull the ticket up” in New Hampshire, one unaligned Granite State Republican strategist told Roll Call.

Jamie Burnett, an unaligned New Hampshire GOP consultant, concurred.

“His strength here — and what would make him a strong top of the ticket here — has more to do with the fact that he ran a competitive race here four years ago ... and he has a large, dedicated organization in the state,” he said.

If New Hampshire, which Obama won with 54 percent in 2008, becomes a true tossup state, the rest of the GOP ticket will be buoyed.

Bass, who has endorsed Romney, said the former governor has the best chance of carrying New Hampshire.

“If our nominee ... carries the state, that’s going to be good for all of the candidates down the line, including me,” Bass said. “I would suggest that Newt Gingrich is much more of an unknown.”

An email to a Gingrich spokesman seeking comment was not returned.

Part of the Republican concern is rooted in Gingrich’s decades of history in D.C. “Is Newt viewed by independents as a creature of the past?” wondered influential GOP strategist Brad Todd. “To this point, Obama’s saving grace always is he is a candidate who looks and sounds and talks like America’s future.”

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