With former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s campaign on the rise, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney turned to fellow Republicans to attack his new rival on Thursday morning.
In a conference call with reporters, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent laid into Gingrich’s comment earlier this year that Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan amounted to “right-wing social engineering.”
Sununu, who served as White House chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush and governor of a primary state key to Romney’s campaign, was especially blunt.
“It was clear that the Republican leadership in the House, and the Republican leadership on the conservative side, were counting on, and relying on, the Ryan plan as being the cornerstone of what they would like to accomplish in Congress,” Sununu said. “For Newt Gingrich, in a effort at self-aggrandizement, to come out and throw a clever phrase that had no other purpose than to make him sound a little smarter than the conservative Republican leadership — to undercut Paul Ryan — is the most self-serving, anti-conservative thing one can imagine happening.”
“He gave liberals and Democrats the ammunition they need to moot, if you will, at least for the time being, Paul Ryan’s presentation,” Sununu added.
Talent cited the four years he served in the House of Representatives while Gingrich was speaker as one of the reasons he’s backing Romney in 2012.
“The speaker is running as a reliable and trusted conservative leader,” he said. “And what we’re here to say, with reluctance, but clearly, is that he’s not a reliable and trusted conservative leader because he is not a reliable or trustworthy leader.” (RELATED: GOP Rep. Peter King: Newt Gingrich ‘very ineffective,’ ‘undisciplined’ [VIDEO])
“Yes, we got some things done,” he said later. “But we also reached a conclusion after four years that we could not go on with [Gingrich] as our leader and continue accomplishing things. And it was exactly because of the kind of thing he just did to Paul Ryan.”
Recent polls show Gingrich leading Romney and the rest of the Republican field in three out of four important, early primary states, including Iowa and South Carolina.