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Republican candidates have ``a great issue'' in America's immensely expensive savings-and-loan crisis, says the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Although both parties are politically vulnerable, ``Republicans ought to be on the offense,'' Mr. Gingrich adds, ``... because there are more powerful Democrats, with more at risk, than there are Republicans.''

It is the second time in a week that Democrats have been the target of a high-level Republican blast over the S&L debacle, now expected to cost between $150 billion and $500 billion to clean up. Earlier this week the Republican National Committee infuriated Democrats by running a blame-Democrats advertisement in the Mobile, Ala., Register while the National Governors' Association was meeting there.

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Treasury undersecretary for finance Robert Glauber says it is impossible to know what the ultimate cost of the S&L bailout will be.

Whatever the total, Gingrich told a Monitor breakfast that ``it is the largest white-collar crime in American history. It is a financial fiasco.''

Gingrich, with a reputation for sharp partisanship, says initial blame for the S&L mess lies with the Carter administration, on grounds that supervision of the S&Ls was weakened then.

Congressional elections are only three months away, and partisanship on many issues is rising - from the federal budget to farm bill to S&Ls. In each case, Gingrich leveled criticism at congressional democrats.

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