By Molly K. Hooper - 04/29/12 05:15 PM EDT
Newt Gingrich’s weeklong exit from the Republican presidential primary should hurt his chances of speaking at the GOP convention this summer, some lawmakers say.
When word spread earlier this week that the former House Speaker will drop out of the race on Tuesday, political operatives scratched their heads.
“Just give it up. This isn’t even a victory lap. This is like losing the World Series and then deciding to run around the bases. Nobody listens to the second sermon,” said the lawmaker who spoke on background.
He added that Gingrich should be denied an opportunity to speak at the convention if he continues to drag out the race.
“If he were to be a little more constructive in the dialogue, then he could have a role. But this is somebody who could be a very valuable asset to the party and to our nominee but right now, he’s not acting that way,” the member said.
Another Republican legislator said, “He’s the kid that kicked everybody else off the monkey bars and nobody wants to play with him. I think he really risks any role — not just in the convention, but in the next administration.” This member pointed out that Gingrich only won two states: South Carolina and his home state of Georgia.
A separate GOP lawmaker who stayed out of the Republican presidential primary noted that Gingrich lost a lot of respect from fellow lawmakers when he “whined” about being attacked by Mitt Romney and the media, and shouldn’t be rewarded for that behavior.
“For those of us that know Newt, I think in the big picture he did not help himself. When you are involved in politics and campaigns, don’t get in and say, ‘I’m being attacked, unfairly! Boo hoo.’ I think a lot of us were going, ‘Come on ... that doesn't show a lot of political maturity.’ That turned a lot of people off — you're in the big game —buck up! Slug back but don't whine about it,” the veteran lawmaker said in an interview with The Hill.
The Gingrich campaign fired back at these assertions.
Campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond told The Hill, “opinions are like members of Congress. Everyone has one.”
Utah Rep. Rob Bishop (R) defended Gingrich’s right to delay his official exit from the GOP field, opining that it may have to do with Gingrich having “viability” as he seeks a role at the convention.
Bishop, who backed Romney in 2008 and 2012, said that Gingrich’s attacks during the primary should not be held against him because “everybody attacked everybody.” What’s important, the lawmaker said, is “how they act going forward now. You can give them some slack for what they said during the primary…”
But other lawmakers shook their heads that Gingrich, who declared as early as last month that Romney would be the likely nominee, has failed to change his rhetoric.
For example, Gingrich recently said that “obviously” he would be a better candidate than Romney.
Many in GOP circles believe that Gingrich hit below the belt during the primary. He called Romney a liar and ripped his record at Bain Capital.
Georgia Rep. Paul Broun (R) said that Gingrich should have a role in the convention.
“He is one of the great thinkers on policy here in America. He should have a tremendous role to play in a Republican administration, whether it’s his or someone else’s. The Republican Party needs to look to Newt Gingrich for ideas, for help in developing policy that makes sense to put this country on the right course."
Gingrich started to call the lawmakers who endorsed him in the presidential primary on Thursday night to officially release them from their obligation supporting him, according to Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.)
“Basically what he told me was he was releasing me from that commitment, that he was dropping out of the race, that he fully intended to support Gov. Romney…I was kind of waiting for that word from him,” Gingrey said.
Gingrey defended Gingrich’s right to take an extra week to wind down the campaign.
“He said to me that he had some obligations, commitments that he had made. I believe he said in North Carolina — speaking engagements or whatever, that he was taking care of. He needed two or three days to wrap everything up. But that he wanted to give me the heads up so I would know that he definitely was dropping out,” Gingrey said, adding that Gingrich would make a fine “secretary of State” should Romney win the general election.