Newt On the Run

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WASHINGTON: The anti-Newt rumbling on the Hill is getting louder. Two days after the election in which they ended up down by five seats, House Republicans have found a scapegoat in Speaker Gingrich - not to mention most of their leadership. While the situation is extremely fluid, one proposed slate of candidates is slowly gaining currency: Bob Livingston for Speaker, replacing Newt; Steve Largent for majority leader, ousting Dick Armey; and Jennifer Dunn for conference chair, knocking John Boehner aside. Tom DeLay, the party whip, would keep his job. Livingston, currently the Appropriations committee chair, is hardly anyone's idea of a 1994-style revolutionary. But the young rebels who attempted to oust Newt in 1997 might be willing to support him as long as one of their own -- Largent -- gets the number two spot. And Livingston does come with some advantages: he can garner support from moderates and old guard chairmen as well as the rebels.

Special Report The current leaders are checking their odor with members by phone; would-be replacements are testing the waters for a challenge. But the key issue in the upcoming leadership elections -- due November 18 -- is not whether Newt can garner a majority among Republicans, but whether he could win all the Republican votes when the speakership comes to a floor vote in January. The last time, around six Republicans deserted Gingrich. If there are more than six GOP turncoats this time round, the Speaker will have to step down. Right now, however, it is unclear whether Livingston or anyone else will have the courage to challenge Newt. As the now-departed Bill Paxon knows, failure invites retribution.