Newt Down To The Wire

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Support for Newt Gingrich continued to weaken Monday as House Banking Committee Chairman James Leach said that Gingrich should step down as Speaker. Leach argued that the reputation of the Congress and Republican control of the House "are clearly jeopardized by (Gingrich's) continued stewardship of the House," adding that the GOP has to choose between "rejuvenated leadership or an ethically damaged speaker." His surprise statement came just hours after a weakened Gingrich predicted he would win the Tuesday vote. Even with defections by Leach and New York Representative Michael Forbes, most House Republicans are expected to endorse Gingrich for a second term. TIME's Karen Tumulty reports that while Leach is highly respected in the House, it's uncertain whether he will persuade other GOP representatives to abandon Gingrich. Forbes is the only Republican who has stated flatly that he will vote against Gingrich, though he says some two dozen of his colleagues share his thinking. With Republicans holding a scant 227-207 majority in a vote that usually breaks on partisan lines, Gingrich needs every GOP vote he can get. To make sure members toe the line, party leaders are threatening to cut off Republican campaign funds to defectors. What is certain is this: even if he emerges from the vote holding the Speaker's gavel, the man who just two years ago was considered one of the most powerful ever to hold the office will speak with a smaller voice. -- Scot Woods