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Gingrich baggage gives voters pause in Panhandle

Published: Monday, Jan. 30 2012 2:00 a.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with his wife Callista, bow their heads in prayer during a campaign event at the The Villages, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, in Lady Lake, Fla.  (Matt Rourke, Associated Press) Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with his wife Callista, bow their heads in prayer during a campaign event at the The Villages, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, in Lady Lake, Fla. (Matt Rourke, Associated Press)

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Newt Gingrich's personal and political history is giving pause to even the most hardcore Republicans in Florida's largely conservative panhandle.

Many panhandle voters interviewed by The Associated Press say they agree more politically with Gingrich than with Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney. But they fear that Gingrich's baggage will hurt him in a general election matchup against President Barack Obama.

Some Republicans were worried about the ethics case against Gingrich when he was House speaker. Others were bothered by the $1.65 million his businesses made off Freddie Mac before he criticized the mortgage giant. And some were troubled by his three marriages.

Gingrich's inability to lock down the panhandle may not bode well for his prospects in more diverse areas in Florida's pivotal primary Tuesday.

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