Speaker's Long Night Ends in Historic Victory

By Kozak, Rick | Insight on the News, December 2, 1996 | Go to article overview

Speaker's Long Night Ends in Historic Victory


Kozak, Rick, Insight on the News


Two years ago the Republicans took control of Congress. Not since 1955 had there been a GOP House speaker, and not since the Democratic sweep of 1930 had one served a second term.

As you look at the images on these pages you should know that the be less than 48 hours before the polls open. House Speaker Newt Gingrich still is pounding the pavement at yet another political rally, confident that he will retain his congressional seat in Georgia's 6th district. He thanks his constituents with autographs and photographs, which also are ways to keep his mind occupied. The tension is tremendous. As Gingrich's mother, Kit, puts it: "I know he'll win the election. I just hope he remains speaker."

Gingrich moves from one rally to the next, energized by the crowds and pressing to get out the vote for Bob Dole and the conservative cause. He excites each audience to a frenzy, but Gingrich is exhausted from the furious pace during a long campaign. For a moment, head down and eyes closed, he dozes and then comes fully awake.

The following day the national press corps starts to multiply like buzzards expecting a fresh kill. Newsweek, CNN, Newsday, CBS and others begin their vigil, encircling the speaker. During these last hours there is not much anyone can do and Gingrich deals with the mental torment of the uncertainty as he always does, with physical and intellectual activity, driving himself to overcome adversity by force of will.

It is Election Day morning. The speaker and his wife, Marianne, arrive at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Marietta, Ga. They are met by a barrage of press all wanting ... something. Cheerfully Gingrich greets them with just the right attitude - he he is upbeat, positive and still in control of the Republican cause. "We will maintain leadership by at least eight to 10 seats," the speaker exhales as he and his wife continue toward the church basement to vote. He is surrounded by press as a queen bee is surrounded by workers. Where the speaker moves, the press moves, swarming him until he no longer is in sight of the camera.

Not far away, a grand ballroom at the Galleria already is decked out with red, white and blue balloons. There are placards: "I Love Newt" and "Speaker Newt" in red and blue. Huge projection-screen televisions gaze blankly from each corner of the room. Within hours there will be hundreds of supporters and press to see how Gingrich takes victory or defeat, all witnesses to history.

Shortly after 11 p.m., when the polls have closed on the West Coast, Gingrich and his wife, his daughters Kathy and Jacqueline Sue, assorted other family members and his complete staff with earphones blaring commands and directions like a satellite out of control, emerge from the campaign war room on a direct line to the crowd in the ballroom. …

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