Gingrich's Guys to the Rescue

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: In a final push just days before the House votes on whether to re-elect Newt Gingrich as Speaker, the Republican political machine has jumped into action to support its once all-powerful, now flailing leader. As TIME Washington correspondent Karen Tumulty reports, "Virtually everyone of any stature was involved" in the campaign waged to save Newt's job. Even Gingrich himself got on the phone to House Republicans to personally plead for votes, says TIME's Jay Carney. On Friday, Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour lept to Gingrich's side in support, in the form of a 650-word editorial in the New York Times and an afternoon press conference. In both venues, Barbour argued that Gingrich has been held to a different standard than Democratic leader Richard Gephardt. When Gephardt twice gave inaccurate information to a committee probing income from one of his rental properties, he was slapped on the wrist with a mild "be more diligent in the future." Though the chairman denied that his last-minute spotlight-hugging was an attempt to change the minds of doubtful Republicans - and said it was for the benefit of the public only - the timing was critical. Earlier, it seemed the effort was too little, too late anyway. But as the day progressed, 12 previously wavering Republicans agreed to support Gingrich, bringing the number of those who oppose him down to about 15. Although heavy lobbying by the Republican leadership clearly paid off, some representatives remained dead set on not supporting the Speaker. Rep. Matt Salmon acknowledged Friday that he's changed sides, saying: "At the very least, it may be prudent for the Speaker to step aside at least temporarily, until these issues are resolved."