By Bob Cusack - 12/18/11 10:45 AM EST
A congressman supporting Newt Gingrich for president said critics of the former Speaker are “sensitive.”
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the first member of Congress to endorse Gingrich’s bid for the White House, told the Hill, “He was an activist Speaker.”
Barton noted Gingrich helped crafted the Contract with America and passed welfare reform and a balanced budget act.
Gingrich has been attacked in recent weeks by some of his former colleagues in Congress, including Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.).
Coburn said he found Gingrich’s leadership “lacking” in Congress. Burr told The Hill earlier this year that Gingrich has the attention span of a 1 year-old. Scarborough has dubbed the ex-Speaker a “bad person” who is “not fit to be president of the United States.”
The Gingrich campaign is looking to counter the narrative that most of Gingrich’s former colleagues in the House are working against him.
Lawmakers say that Gingrich has been leaning on them to get on board, pointing out that he started calling them months ago. A GOP strategist speaking on background told The Washington Post last week that Gingrich planned to roll out endorsements to rebut claims that he was a poor leader in the House.
Barton, who served as a deputy whip to Gingrich when the Georgia Republican was minority whip, said the Gingrich campaign will be putting out “some” new Capitol Hill backers over the next couple of weeks.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is lapping the GOP field in congressional endorsements. Romney has 56 while Gingrich only has 8, according to The Hill’s tally.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has 13 while Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has three and Rep. Michele Bachmann recently received the backing of Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).
Barton downplayed the importance of endorsements for Gingrich, saying, “The better well known you are, the less important endorsements are.”
The Hill this month reported that some, but not all, of Georgia’s GOP delegation are backing Gingrich.
Barton indicated the soon-to-be-unveiled endorsements will occur before the Iowa Caucus, though sought to lower expectations a bit.
“You’re not going to see 100 members endorsing [Gingrich],” Barton said.