Soon after Newt Gingrich’s victory in the South Carolina primary, Rep. Michael Burgess, a senior House Republican from Texas, told TPM that it’s “nonsense” to suggest that the former speaker’s potential nomination would damage the GOP’s odds in the presidential or congressional races come November.
“I actually think that’s nonsense,” Burgess told TPM by phone Saturday night. “I think that if we have a good strong national leader as our nominee I think that will reflect well on the races across the country. The people who are concerned about that really ought to do the right thing in their races, and their races will take care of themselves.”
Many Republicans are concerned that Gingrich, were he the party’s nominee, would do severe harm — fears that have been bolstered by the ex-speaker’s plummeting national popularity as of late. But Burgess nevertheless predicted that if Gingrich is the nominee, Republicans will control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives come January 2013.
The Texas Republican, an early Gingrich supporter who says he “begged him to run” back in November 2009, shrugged off the ex-speaker’s lack of establishment GOP support. He said it’s ultimately unimportant compared to Gingrich’s “enormous intelligence,” his “unique ability to communicate with average people,” and his capacity to “make this country believe in itself again.”
“You see the skills which he brings on the debate stage,” Burgess added, calling Gingrich the best candidate to debate President Obama.
Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, argued on MSNBC that the establishment is terrified of a Gingrich nomination. “If Newt Gingrich is able to win the Florida primary, you will see a panic and a meltdown of the Republican establishment that is beyond my ability to articulate in the English language,” he said. “People will go crazy.”
TPM asked Burgess whether he considers it fair for Mitt Romney to accuse Gingrich of “demonizing success” by raising questions about his tenure at Bain Capital.
“I’m not sure that I do [think it’s fair],” Burgess responded. He added that Romney ought to be prepared to answer these attacks because they’re certain to come from President Obama if he’s the nominee.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.