WASHINGTON -- Newt Gingrich's difficulties in winning the endorsements of Republican lawmakers are no secret. The animus still held by those who worked with the former Speaker has become, in no small part, a defining feature of his presidential campaign: evidence that he is volatile, unprincipled and incapable of effective governance.
So it must have come as a nice surprise for the Gingrich campaign when he got the equivalent of a vote of confidence from a longtime detractor Wednesday night. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was part of the coup to unseat Gingrich as speaker back in the late-1990s, said that he not only would be comfortable with him as president but was wrong for having been so critical in the past.
From Graham's interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren:
When you talk about conservatism, when [Gingrich] is on there is no better messenger for what we believe as conservatives and when he is not on, he is a danger to himself and others at times. But what I see in this version of Newt Gingrich is the guy who feels more comfortable with who he is. And if you are going to change the place behind me, Washington, if you really want to make change substantial and real, somebody has to come in here and rock this place because we are going nowhere quick with the current formula. So from my point of view, Newt's candidacy is okay if he stays in. I don't mind it one bit.
What I'm saying about Newt, why did we lose confidence in him? Because he was changing the game plan. The last group to talk to him sort of won the day. But I can't imagine his job. The first time Republicans had the congress in 40 years, trying to lead a revolution, taking people like me that came here to burn the place down and govern the country and deal with Bill Clinton -- a good politician. Looking back, I appreciate how hard his job was better than I did in 1997. And I'm here to say, as the guy who was in the coup, that looking back we were too hard on him and if he got to be the nominee I think he could win.
Graham, of course, hails from South Carolina, a state that just went heavily for Gingrich in its primary. But it wasn't as if he faced immense in-state pressure to offer a testimonial on the former speaker's behalf.