1:03 pm Jan. 19, 2012
On a conference call with reporters this morning, Peter King continued his crusade against Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign, casting the former speaker as a threat to achieving a Republican majority in Congress, and to the country as a whole.
"As Republicans, we cannot afford him to be our nominee," said King, according to a transcript sent out by the Romney campaign. "The House is on the line this year. I believe we can take back the Senate. We have to win the presidency. Having Newt at the top puts all of that in danger. And then, if he were elected president, to me the whole country would be in danger."
The call was organized by Mitt Romney's campaign, and the press advisory I received didn't mention King, who has not technically endorsed the former Massachusetts governor (though he's admitted to leaning in that direction). But the campaign made sure to circulate his remarks after the call, with King's comment about the "erratic, self-serving narcissism of Newt" serving as the subject line.
It's an argument King began making shortly after Gingrich's sudden jump in the polls, and one the Romney campaign was apparently eager to re-state, as Gingrich tries to cement a non-Romney coalition before Saturday's primary in South Carolina. King was joined on the call by former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who has acted as one of Romney's most aggressive advocates in recent weeks.
King served, unhappily, in the House during Gingrich's speakership, and was one of two New York members the Romney campaign enlisted as surrogates in the last 24 hours.
Former representative Susan Molinari spoke on a similar conference call yesterday morning, along with former Missouri congressman Jim Talent. King said that was evidence that the anti-Newt effort wasn't coming from a particular type of Republican, nor a dissident faction of northeasterners.
"You have a moderate Republican such as Susan Molinari. You have a very sophisticated conservative, low-key person like Jim Talent," King said. "Both of them have served who served under Newt want to show that his leadership skills were not there. This is not a faction of the party coming after him. This is not a wing of the party; it’s not a region coming after Newt."
King said if you can't trust him and Molinari, at least trust Talent.
"I mean Susan Molinari and I can be considered hot-tempered maybe at times or whatever," he said. "The idea of Jim Talent was almost professorial. And to get Jim Talent exercised enough that he’s waiting to go public with his criticism of Newt to me speaks volumes.”