Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich‘s thumping of pre-determined frontrunner Mitt Romney in South Carolina’s GOP primary Saturday has party leaders expressing concerns in conference calls and huddling to figure out how to salvage what has become a disaster in the party’s efforts to find a credible candidate to challenge President Barack Obama.
With three different winners in the season’s first three primaries, leaders of the party that can’t seem to agree on a candidate can agree that the last person they want at the top of the GOP ticket is a scandal-scarred, morally-challenged Gingrich.
“This is a disaster, an absolute disaster,” a top GOP strategist said Saturday night in an email to Capitol Hill Blue. “We would be better off nominating Ron Paul. That’s how bad things have become.
Paul, however, finished fourth in South Carolina with only 13 percent of the vote.
With all votes counted, Gingrich won the state with 40 percent of the vote. Romney came in 12 points back at 28 percent with Rick Santorum third at 17 percent.
Capitol Hill Blue has learned that GOP leaders expressed their concerns on a long conference call that lasted past midnight with many feeling that a new candidate may be needed to pick up the pieces of a tattered party effort.
“We need a white knight to save the day,” said another GOP operative. “We’ve got four candidates left and none of them seems to fit the bill. Newt is best at destroying himself and everyone around him and that’s just what he could do with our efforts this year.”
Gingrich leaves South Carolina with momentum going into the crucial Florida primary and he does so without the support of a single mainstream Republican leader. Nearly all of those who served with him during his tumultuous reign as Speaker of the House have avoided endorsing his run for President.
“Gingrich is the bad apple of the bunch,” says GOP operative Molly Jackson.
At the moment, however, that bad apple seems to be the choice of the right wing that strongly influences — if not controls — the RepublicanParty.