Newt Gingrich's efforts to restore his standing among Republican conservatives for a possible future presidential bid have suffered a self-inflicted setback because of the former House speaker's support for liberal Rep. Wayne Gilchrest's unsuccessful attempt to save his seat in Congress representing Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Gingrich came to the state capital of Annapolis to host a fund-raiser for Gilchrest. While they are at odds on Iraq and other issues, Gingrich praised Gilchrest's intellect, courage and especially his work to conserve the Chesapeake Bay.
Gilchrest was defeated in the Feb. 12 Republican primary by conservative State Sen. Andrew Harris, who was backed by former Gov. Bob Ehrlich and the conservative Club for Growth. Harris' backers are furious at Gingrich and vow to make him pay if he ever runs for president.
Despite recent favorable polls, Illinois Democratic leaders fear that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's district is too Republican for a Democrat to win in next Saturday's special election.
A recent Democratic poll (Global Strategy Group) showed the Democratic candidate, liberal businessman-physicist Bill Foster, taking a narrow lead over his Republican opponent, conservative dairy magnate Jim Oberweis. Foster has been outspending Oberweis nearly two to one.
Oberweis, who has lost three GOP primaries for statewide office, is a controversial figure inside the Republican Party. Nevertheless, losing the former speaker's old district would be heralded as a harbinger of a big Democratic year ahead.