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Factbox: Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich

(Reuters) - Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich takes part in the New Hampshire primary election on Tuesday in the race to pick a Republican candidate to oppose President Barack Obama in 2012.

Here are a few facts about him.

* As speaker, Gingrich was the main architect of the 1994 election victory that gave Republicans control of Congress for the first time in decades. He forced a showdown with then-President Bill Clinton over the federal budget that ended in a partial government shutdown. Gingrich also started the impeachment drive against Clinton for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But Gingrich's Republicans suffered major losses in the 1998 midterm elections.

* Thrice-married, Gingrich admits he has made mistakes in his personal life, including cheating on his first and second wives. He has since converted to Catholicism and says he has asked for God's forgiveness.

* Long a visible Republican figure with a reputation as one his party's most creative thinkers, Gingrich is the author of some two dozen books. His "21st Century Contract with America," an update of his 1990s "Contract with America," is a blueprint for recapturing the spirit of the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress. He is also known for an abrasive and often condescending tone with critics - an image he has tried to rehabilitate during his campaign.

* Gingrich, 68, was recently the popular conservative alternative to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, but his surge may have come too early. In the Iowa caucuses, he plunged to fourth place from first in polls after being pummeled by negative ads from his rivals criticizing him for his past as a Washington power-broker.

* Many of Gingrich's senior campaign staff resigned en masse in June, questioning the candidate's commitment to his campaign when he left for a two-week Aegean Sea cruise with his wife instead of touring early primary states. He was also criticized for maintaining a credit line at the upscale jewelry store Tiffany & Co. "Philosophically, I am very different from normal politicians, and normal consultants found that very hard to deal with," Gingrich said in response to his staff problems.

* In 1998, Gingrich announced his resignation from the House after Republicans suffered losses in congressional elections amid an ethics investigation and growing opposition within his own party. He was found in violation of House ethics rules involving a book deal and fined $300,000.

* Gingrich's critics have seized on his record in Washington, including taking $1.6 million in consulting fees from the mortgage company Freddie Mac, which was at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis.

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