By Molly K. Hooper - 12/06/11 10:15 AM EST
The Republican presidential primary is shaping up as a two-man race, but influential conservatives are clearly expressing their dissatisfaction with choices A and B.
In recent weeks, key GOP lawmakers and Republican kingmakers have publicly ripped former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). The angst from Republican insiders has sparked questions about how united the GOP base will be in 2012.
The headline on Will’s column read, “Between Romney and Gingrich the choice is neither.”
Will called Romney “a conservative of convenience” and referred to Gingrich as “the least conservative candidate.” In October, Will compared Romney to Michael Dukakis (D).
He wrote that Gingrich “embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive.”
Coburn, a member of the House GOP class of 1994 that tried to overthrow Gingrich as Speaker, said on “Fox News Sunday,” “I’m not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich’s, having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership. … I found it lacking, oftentimes.”
In the 2008 GOP primary, Coburn backed Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMellman: Parsing the polls GOP seeks to remove funding to design Gitmo alternative Big-name donors join Trump fundraising team MORE (Ariz.).
New York Rep. Pete King (R) last week told Capital, a New York publication, that Gingrich was “condescending … dismissive,” with a “superiority complex,” when he served with him in the lower chamber.
King added that “the problem was, over a period of time, he couldn’t stay focused. He was undisciplined. Too often, he made it about himself.”
Meanwhile, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has said Romney is “not conservative” and labeled him a “flip-flopper.”
Sen. Richard BurrRichard BurrSenate panel advances spy policy bill, after House approves its own version Apple hires leading security expert amid encryption fight GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' MORE (R-N.C.) in April told The Hill, “He’s a guy of 1,000 ideas, and the attention span of a 1-year-old. His discipline and his attention to any individual thing is not his strong suit.”
Republican criticism of Mitt Romney
“Romney is not a conservative. He’s not, folks. You can argue with me all day long, but he isn’t. What he has going for him is that he’s not Obama.”
— Rush Limbaugh, October. Limbaugh previously called Romney a “flip-flopper”
“Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. And his general-election campaign will be an utter disaster for conservatives as he takes the GOP down with him and burns up what it means to be a conservative in the process. … Mitt Romney will be the nominee because the other candidates, right now, are a pretty pathetic lot.”
— Influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson, November
“He’s a little mushy on environmental issues.”
— Sen. James InhofeJames InhofeOvernight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo Senate GOP gears up for fight over Gitmo transfers GOP seeks to remove funding to design Gitmo alternative MORE (R-Okla.), August. Inhofe has endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).
“I’m hearing conservatives say, ‘You know what, I would rather lose to Barack ObamaBarack ObamaDems discuss dropping Wasserman Schultz Mellman: Parsing the polls LA mayor: 'Donald Trump will not win California' MORE. I would rather give him four more years than elect Mitt Romney and have him spend money like President Bush and have another Republican who promises to be conservative go liberal.’ Conservative leaders this week, it’s like a light switch is going on, saying, ‘You know what, we would rather lose.’ ”
— MSNBC host and former Rep. Joe
Scarborough (R-Fla.), in November
Republican criticism of Newt Gingrich
“He’s a guy of 1,000 ideas, and the attention span of a 1-year-old. His discipline and his attention to any individual thing is not his strong suit.”
—Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), April
“I’m not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich’s, having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership. … I found it lacking, oftentimes.”
— Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on “Fox News Sunday,” December
“Gingrich embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive.”
— Columnist George Will, December
“This guy is not fit to be president of the United States.”
— Scarborough, December
Ariel Katz contributed to this article.