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Gingrich backs Whitman in GOP gubernatorial primary

May 25, 2010 |  6:51 pm

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed Meg Whitman on Tuesday, the latest in a string of GOP superstars the gubernatorial candidate has unveiled in her primary battle with Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

“Whitman has the conservative values, courage and vision to clean up the spending mess in Sacramento and rebuild the state's economy,” Gingrich wrote in Tuesday’s San Jose Mercury News.

Gingrich, the architect of the Republican Revolution of 1994 and author of the "Contract with America," joins former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in backing Whitman.

The Poizner campaign questioned whether such endorsements are helpful in a year when Republican voters are bucking the party’s picks, notably in Kentucky’s Senate primary last week.

“Meg Whitman is running as the establishment candidate in an anti-establishment election year when voters want to reform the status quo,” said Jarrod Agen, a Poizner spokesman. “Meg's establishment platform has proven to be a losing strategy in most primaries across the country.”

Whitman’s campaign has been prominently featuring the words and images of these popular Republican supporters in television ads, robocalls and other voter outreach throughout the state. But what could be political gold in the Republican primary could be troublesome in the general election, when front-runner Whitman, if she wins the primary, will have to appeal to moderates and independents to defeat Democratic Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown.

The former EBay chief executive’s campaign did not sound concerned Tuesday morning, saying that their candidate is solidifying support among the GOP base, and once the party is united behind her, she will move on to the general election.

“She’s going to run a classic, Reagan-esque, winning-California big-tent campaign,” said senior strategist Mike Murphy. “We’re going to get everyone who wants change. Everyone’s kind of tired of the Sacramento political system that Jerry Brown is kind of the alpha male dog of.”

-- Seema Mehta in Los Angeles