The Trouble with Newt - Gingrich Is Trying to Find His Footing - and Pay His Ethics Bills. but Does His Wife Have Other Ideas?

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Gingrich is trying to find his footing--and pay his ethics bills. But does his wife have other ideas?

IN JOURNALS OF OPINion, covering Newt Gingrich has become a kind of death watch. Last month a widely read cover story in The New Republic was rifled "The Madness of King Newt." Then the conservative Weekly Standard--once pro-Newt--wondered whether Gingrich was in "meltdown." The lead article-by a fellow GOP congressman, Peter King--called the speaker "political road kill." Gingrich's trip to China was intended to position the speaker as a statesman-- but he was attacked by conservatives when his initial itinerary omitted a stop in Taiwan, the right's favorite bastion of anti-communism in the Far East.

Gingrich is not mad, but he is angry. He doesn't understand why he was vilified by his own colleagues on the right for suggesting that the GOP forgo a tax cut until the budget is balanced. He was just trying to remove the implication that Republicans want to cut Medicare to pay for tax breaks for the rich. Gingrich's most delicate struggle may be at home, say his friends--with his wife, Marianne. In January Gingrich agreed to pay a $300,000 fine for misleading the House ethics committee. But Marianne, who handles the family finances, does not want to pay the penalty out of her husband's own pocket. She would prefer to use Gingrich's campaign contributions, an option that is legal but probably politically disastrous.

"It's a huge problem," a friend told NEWSWEEK. "Marianne has said to Newt, 'Do not bankrupt us over a political matter. …