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NEWT CAN'T REALLY TOOT HIS HORN AS A HANDYMAN

Newt Gingrich should be used to pounding. After all, he's got that gavel in Washington.

But the House speaker was sometimes tentative when he pounded nails into a light blue siding Saturday on a house he is helping build for a poor family."I'm slowly rising from mediocre," said Gingrich, who acknowledged his handyman handicaps earlier when the Habitat for Humanity project began in ththe Atlanta suburb of Powder Springs, Ga.

The Georgia Republican often has praised the group that builds and renovates houses for poor families. Former President Jimmy Carter, an expert carpenter, is a longtime habitat volunteer.