By Dan Balz, The Washington Post
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. â€” The revenge of the Republican establishment is a sight to behold. From one corner to another, those who have tangled with Newt Gingrich, who feel aggrieved toward Newt Gingrich or who fear Newt Gingrich have amassed to stop him. They know how much harder it will be to do so if the former House speaker wins Florida on Tuesday.
The quintessential example of establishment angst came Thursday from Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader and 1996 Republican presidential nominee. Hours before Thursdayâ€™s GOP debate, he released a letter â€” circulated by Mitt Romneyâ€™s campaign â€” attacking Gingrich and pleading with Republican voters not to make him the partyâ€™s nominee. There is much rich history behind that letter.
Dole is just one voice in a chorus of critics who have spoken out. Gingrichâ€™s victory in South Carolina just a week ago sent a shudder through the ranks of elected officials and others who make up the establishment and the conservative elite. Fear of Newt has displaced lack of love for Romney as the dominant emotion among these Republicans.
In recent days, the group has included former House majority leader Tom Delay (R-Tex.) and the caustic Ann Coulter. A trio of House members shadow Gingrichâ€™s events. Others who are prominent in the conservative movement have joined ex-colleagues of Gingrich to sound the alarms.
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