Irrational. Self-aggrandizing. Not a reliable leader. Irritating.
“Speaker Gingrich is not a reliable and trusted conservative leader,” former Missouri senator Jim Talent told his listeners, drawing upon his experience as a Republican House member who served under Gingrich in the 1990s.
“The off-the-cuff comments that Gingrich makes come from off-the-cuff thinking,” former New Hampshire governor John Sununu claimed, adding that Gingrich’s “irrational behavior” is something “that you do not want in the commander in chief.”
The conference call—which focused on Gingrich’s critique of House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s entitlement-reform plan as “radical” and “right-wing social engineering”—was an early volley in what will undoubtedly become a barrage of attacks on the latest frontrunner in the Republican presidential race. Gingrich’s remarkable surge in recent polls has been giving the Romney camp fits.
Recent polls have Gingrich well ahead of Romney in three early-contest states—Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida—and within striking distance in the first-primary state of New Hampshire. A loss there would deal a possible mortal blow to Romney’s nomination chances.
Talent kept repeating how “reluctant” he was to trash his former leader. “Anybody who knows me knows I don’t like to do this,” he said. Sununu—who, when he was the first President Bush’s chief of staff in the early 1990s, less than cordially despised Gingrich, then a partisan flamethrower in the House—displayed no such reluctance.
He left the conference call early to appear on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown, where he expanded on his Newt-ron bombing.
“I don’t think Newt Gingrich cares about conservative principles,” he said. “I think Newt Gingrich is a Gingrichite. All he cares about is Newt Gingrich.”