Playing offense for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Wednesday, Arizona Sen. John McCain demonized rival Newt Gingrich's role in expanding the use of congressional earmarks in the mid-1990s and cast aspersions on his leadership ability.
"All I can say is, I was there, I saw the earmarks explode, I saw the corruption that it bred, and I saw the incredible waste of taxpayers' dollars not just on things like the bridge to nowhere, but earmark after earmark after earmark," said McCain, who has endorsed the former Massachusetts governor, in a media call. "While Gingrich was speaker, the number of earmarks doubled to more than 6,000 projects in the range of billions of dollars."
McCain, who served with Gingrich in the House, also confirmed that many in the GOP establishment fear a Gingrich nomination.
"Obviously [there are] his electability issues, which are substantiated by the polls," the former presidential candidate said. "But the fact is, he was a failed speaker. He could not have been re-elected as speaker of the House, and his leadership style was a major factor in giving him a lack of support."
But McCain did drift from the pro-Romney script when he began discussing the role of outside money in the primary race.
"As you know, I think the outside super PACs and others are so disgraceful, I'm ashamed of the United States Supreme Court and their decision on United," he said, referring to the court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that resulted in an influx of unlimited campaign spending via political action committees, but not directly to campaigns.
Romney has criticized the legislation drafted by McCain which was partially ruled unconstitutional and recently said he wished corporations and people could give unlimited funds directly to campaigns.
When asked about the differing opinions on the issue, McCain said he "looked forward" to future discussions with Romney on the topic.
"But as I mentioned earlier, I predict to you there will be a major scandal associated with the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United," he said. "There is too much money washing around. I note with some interest that a casino owner has given $5 million and his wife has now given $5 million, so you have one family throwing in $10 million into a primary race. I don't think that's what our Founding Fathers had in mind." McCain was referring to monies donated to a super PAC supporting Gingrich's candidacy, which has reportedly recently made a $6 million television advertising buy in Florida, the next primary state to vote. McCain, who defeated Romney in the Florida primary four years ago, began the call announcing that he would be campaigning for Romney in the Sunshine state starting Thursday and through the weekend leading up to Tuesday's election.