Gingrich treats attack ads as honor Speaker says Democrats created a 'fantasy'

Election 1996


SMYRNA, Ga. -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich presented himself as a leader more honored than humbled yesterday after having been personally targeted in an estimated 75,000 Democratic attack ads across the country in one of the most vituperative campaigns in modern politicking.

"They had to create a fantasy Gingrich," the Republican congressman said as he awaited the results of an election that presented dramatically divergent alternatives for his future: Voters could end his House majority role as dramatically as it began two years ago, or they could continue his status on the national scene if both Gingrich and President Clinton remained in power.

"People realized all the mean-spirited, negative, nasty ads were being run by the Washington union bosses," said Gingrich, anticipating a Republican majority victory in the House and his continued hold on the speakership. "The average person began figuring out three weeks ago that their local candidate was not named Newt."

Looking ahead, Gingrich refused to entertain the question of whether he might resign the Republican leadership if his party slipped into the House minority.

Although bold in tone, he carefully stressed the need to "slow down and assess" what is acceptable to the voters in the way of initiatives in the next Congress.

On the campaign's late-flaring issue of big-money political contributions, the speaker said the problem was largely one of illicit influence by foreign contributors on the Clinton campaign and not the broader issue of abuses by both parties exploiting a wide range of big-money contributors.

Gingrich argued that the high cost of modern politicking was dictated not by politicians' machinations as much as by the high cost of advertising on television and in newspapers.

"Maybe one of the things we ought to look at is how much do TV anchors get paid and how does that raise the cost of advertising," said Gingrich, as combative as ever as he awaited the voters' verdict.

Describing the national flood of "anti-Newt" attack ads as "a tribute" from the Democrats, Gingrich said he would maintain his hold on the House with gusto and would go on to reverse the ads' negative effects.

Republican advertising specialists estimated that a series of ads targeting Gingrich by name and run repeatedly totaled about 75,000.

"I'm probably as controversial as anybody at my level has been," Gingrich said. "You had to get that out of the way first and let people get used to you and render a judgment on you before you can do anything else."

The speaker seemed to be happy as he approached the ballot box at Holy Family Catholic Church here in his home district in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. He smiled without without complaint as a jostling throng of TV and newspaper photographers came within inches of him as he checked off his choices.

"What an amazing miracle it is that we do," Gingrich said, referring to the day of voting that ended the grinding months of political fighting and extravagant spending.

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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