Georgia senators say don’t count Gingrich out

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Georgia Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have positive things to say about fellow Georgians – and likely presidential candidates – Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain.

In interviews with Roll Call, Chambliss and Isakson cautioned against dismissing Gingrich in the wake of comments attacking Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plans as “radical change from the right” and “right-wing social engineering.”

Although Gingrich’s comments have been widely interpreted as a death-knell to his budding campaign, Chambliss said, “If this is the worst hill he has to climb in the primary, I’d say he’s in pretty good shape.”

Chambliss praised Gingrich as “the smartest politician I know,” mentioning that the former speaker of the House is “a great communicator, he has really good ideas and I think he’d make a very good president.”

Isakson echoed Chambliss’ comments, saying that, “you can’t underestimate him as an individual and a politician” and that Gingrich has “some great ideas.”

Each senator offered a degree of reservation about Gingrich. Isakson said, “if you aren’t thinking, you don’t need to be in this job.”

The other Georgian in the race, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, received similarly supportive feedback from the state’s senators.

“Herman’s a very articulate guy, he’s got a good business background,” Isakson said. “He’s a great speaker, and I know Herman well and have a high regard for he and [Gingrich] both.”

Cain ran against Isakson in the 2004 Republican primary for Senate. Isakson recalled the race, in which Cain placed second, saying that Cain “was underestimated… It was a three-man race, and the incumbent Congressman who ran against me finished third.”

Chambliss said that Cain was a “bright guy, a good sound businessman. And, again, would make a very good president, in my opinion.” He speculated that Cain is “going to get a really good look by a lot of people.”