Former Speaker Newt Gingrich threw his weight behind Tommy Thompson on Tuesday, endorsing the former Wisconsin Governor in his bid for the Republican nomination for Senate in Wisconsin.
Thompson is in a pitched battle with former congressman Mark Neumann and businessman Eric Hovde, while state assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald trails behind. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the race to fill retiring Sen. Herb Kohl’s seat.
Speaking to a crowd in La Crosse, Gingrich credited Thompson with starting a trend in welfare reform and school choice, the La Crosse Tribune reported.
“I helped develop a set of ideas that came straight out of his governorship,” Gingrich said. “This is an extraordinarily creative person who has had a genuine impact on the public policy of the United States.”
“I believe we need a senator who actually knows what they’re doing,” Gingrich went on to say. “We need people who have the knowledge and experience and the skills of getting things done. … I believe he can reach across the aisle and actually help make the Senate effective in a way nobody else in this race could.”
Thompson has received a great deal of flack from his opponents for statements that indicated he might support the Affordable Care Act, but Gingrich defended Thompson from those attacks.
“Tommy in many ways on Medicaid was about where Ryan was, but about 20 years earlier,” Gingrich told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in an interview after the endorsement.
“When we repeal Obamacare, we’re going to have to replace it,” Gingrich went on. “And I don’t know of anybody who will be in the US Senate who has a deeper knowledge of health issues than the former secretary of health and human services.”
Gingrich had harsh words for the other two leading candidates in the race.
“He’s a fine person, I just don’t think he has the kind of innovation, the kind of creativity and the ability to get things done that Tommy has,” Gingrich said of Neumann. Neumann was a member of the House during Gingrich’s tenure as speaker, and their relationship was often contentious.
As for Hovde, Gingrich characterized him as a carpetbagger looking to buy the Senate seat.
“I think when you have somebody who’s been out of the state for 20 years and made a tremendous amount of money in finance, just ask yourself a question: Is Elroy or Wall Street a better venue to learn about Wisconsin?” Gingrich said. “If you think Wall Street is a better place and somebody ought to parachute in and write a big enough check and buy the seat, then I think Hovde makes sense.”