Despite South Carolina exit polling that suggested voters felt Newt Gingrich stood the best chance to beat President Obama in the fall general election, challenger Mitt Romney's team today said a Gingrich nomination would guarantee an Obama second term.
"The possibility of Newt Gingrich being our nominee against Barack Obama, I think, is essentially handing the election over to Obama if it got to that point. And I think that's shared by a lot of folks in the Republican Party," said Romney cheerleader Tim Pawlenty.
Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who dropped out of the GOP presidential race to endorse Romney, added that the former Massachusetts governor "can get elected."
Sneering at the possibility of a Gingrich nomination, he asked, "really, I mean really?"
Pawlenty joined Will Weatherford, speaker-designate of the Florida House of Representatives, in a call to reporters this morning to raise new questions about Gingrich's electability and ethics. While Pawlenty focused on Gingrich's chances against Obama, Weatherford suggested that Gingrich's work for Freddie Mac will hurt him in next week's Florida primaries. He called on Gingrich to release his contract with the firm, something the former speaker said he plans to do.
Gingrich earned about $1.7 million from the mortgage giant for his work as an advisor and "historian." Pawlenty suggested instead that Gingrich acted at a lobbyist and "influence peddler" and accused Gingrich of "splitting hairs" over how he described his role at Freddie Mac.
"The notion that he was paid $1.7 million as a historian for Freddie Mac, is just B.S., it's just nonsense," added Pawlenty.