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Gingrich 2008 bid gets tepid support in Ga.

If former House Speaker Newt Gingrich runs for president, he may not get much support from his home state.
/ Source: The Associated Press

If former House Speaker Newt Gingrich runs for president, he may not get much support from his home state.

Exit polls conducted with Tuesday's elections indicate only 30 percent of Georgia voters think the Republican would make a good president, while 63 percent say he wouldn't. Seven percent declined to answer the question.

Gingrich's press secretary, Rick Tyler, said the former suburban Atlanta congressman had no comment on the responses.

The poll of 514 Georgia voters was conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. Results were subject to a sampling error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

'Republican Revolution' leader
With his "Contract for America," Gingrich led the Republican revolution in 1994 that gave his party control of the House for the first time in decades, and ended with Democrats winning back control in this week's elections.

Gingrich abruptly resigned in 1998 after his party fared poorly in that round of midterm elections.

Since then, he's published several Civil War novels and released a new book, "Rediscovering God in America" on religion's role in politics. Recently, he made numerous visits to key battleground states to stump for vulnerable House candidates, some of whom were ushered in during the Republicans' 1994 takeover. Among the 14 states he's visited in recent months are Iowa and South Carolina, two early presidential primary voting states.

He's shown a moderate streak, too, endorsing Independent Joe Lieberman's Senate bid instead of the long-shot Republican candidate.

Gingrich supporters, detractrors
"He probably would be a good president," said Democrat Julia Amiri, a 62-year-old retiree in Atlanta. "But he would never get elected because he says it like it is."

Gingrich's firmest support in Georgia came from voters who strongly approve of President Bush's performance; nearly three out of five such voters said the former speaker would do a good job. Among the voters who strongly disapprove of Bush's work, only 6 percent said they thought Gingrich was suited for the White House.

"If it was between him and Bush, I'd take him every day. I would consider him," said Democrat Janece Syndav, a 51-year-old federal worker from Tucker. "He did an OK job in Congress. He would be good for Georgia. He's had a lot of experience."

The former speaker also got a thumbs up from white evangelical Christians, half of whom said he would make a good commander in chief.

Yet the exit poll numbers reflect how divisive a figure Gingrich was while the leader of the Republicans in the House.

"He would have a sizable number of people who would support him, but he'd also have a lot of national opposition that would be very difficult to overcome," said Merle Black, an Emory University political science professor.

Crowded race expected
Instead, Black said, Gingrich could emerge as an outsider whose role "is more about creating and generating ideas for others than being a candidate."

If Gingrich decides to run, he'll join a likely crowded race to succeed Bush.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are widely considered the front-runners in their respective parties. And political watchers will be eyeing whether freshman Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the Senate's only black member, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will enter the race.

Among the other alternatives are Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, and former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards.