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New GOP Plan: Ditch Dole, Save Gingrich

By Brooks Jackson/CNN

WASHINGTON (Oct. 23) -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich may have a secret new weapon: a blank check made out to Bill Clinton that will soon be appearing in TV ads for some House Republicans.

blank check

CNN has learned that the Republican House leadership has given its permission for GOP House members to concede, in effect, that President Clinton probably will be re-elected in order to improve Gingrich's odds of remaining Speaker of the House.

Republican strategists say Republican nominee Bob Dole's weakness in the polls may actually help Republican congressional candidates.

Newt Gingrich

"For all this talk about gridlock, Americans kind of like gridlock," according to Republican pollster William McInturff. "And at the end of the day, we've had lots of swing voters and focus groups tell us, 'Look, I might re-elect Bill Clinton, but I don't want to give him a blank check.'"

Clinton's re-election, one House Republican strategist said, "is the strongest argument we have." Some GOP polls show one voter in 10 would be more likely to support a Republican House candidate if they are convinced Clinton will win the White House.

House leaders have told Republican candidates they won't lose financial help from the national party if they run ads urging voters not to give a re-elected Clinton a blank check by returning Democrats to majority control in the House. Sources say some ads are already in production and may start running in the next few days.

But it's a dangerous ploy, other Republicans warn.

"There is concern that this might erode the base for Bob Dole," says Republican pollster Steve Lombardo. "That is why it is a card that has to be played late in the game."

But Gingrich doesn't intend to give that speaker's gavel back, if he can help it.

Republican party leaders still insist their top priority is to elect Dole and a Republican Congress.

But even Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour now is saying if Clinton is re-elected, Americans don't want him to have... a blank check.

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."

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