Blame It on Newt?

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WASHINGTON: It's a prediction Newt Gingrich will be a while living down: a GOP pickup of 40 seats in the House. But months later on Election Day, far from adding to their majority, Republicans were just hoping to hang onto it. Between Wednesday morning and January, the GOP rank-and-file members -- at least those that aren't packing their bags -- are going to be looking around for an explanation.

Special Report "They'll have to ask themselves whether the leadership was stupid or the public was," says TIME Washington correspondent James Branegan. Did Newt, late in the budget battle, give up too much to the White House? Or is the public's tolerance of Bill Clinton something Republicans never really grasped? "The GOP shouldn't have messed with the Clintons this close to the election," says Branegan. And that was something Newt, for all his October missteps, very pointedly didn't do. Maybe it's not his fault after all.

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