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How Newt Gingrich won over the tea party

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Gingrich's appeal among tea partyers has its roots in a number of factors, including his early support of the movement, his scorched-earth maneuverings in the 1990s that helped guide the country toward balanced budgets and even surpluses, and the fact that he's being targeted for takedown by the same Republican establishment that the tea party has vowed to depose via electoral insurgency.

Gingrich can "express conservative views in ways that are, to that conservative audience, interesting and motivational, and those are his political assets,” says Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University, in Atlanta

Democrats have wasted little time playing up Gingrich's tea party connections. Gingrich was “a tea party politician even before there was a tea party," Debbie Wasserman Schultz,chair of the Democratic National Committee, recently said. "He supported gutting funding for education and Medicare to fund a tax cut for millionaires and shut down the government over it, and those are the same policies he supports today,” she said.

Gingrich's recent slip in the  polls indicate that his record is susceptible to attacks, like the ads playing in Iowa that highlight his work as a consultant for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which paid Gingrich $1.6 million over six years. Gingrich has said he was paid for “strategic advice,” not lobbying.

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