- (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)
A day after Newt Gingrich's runaway victory in South Carolina's Republican presidential primary, some conservatives expressed dismay at the possibility of Gingrich becoming the nominee.
Gingrich won South Carolina's primary on Saturday with 40 percent of the vote. He won at least six, possibly all seven, of South Carolina's congressional districts.
But despite Gingrich contrasting himself against "Massachusetts moderate" Romney, conservative political commentator Joe Scarborough declared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that "Newt is not a conservative."
"He uses this resentment, politics of grievance, to actually hide a record that you can identify very quickly on Google," said Scarborough, currently the host of "Morning Joe" on MSNBC.
The former House speaker has had a schizophrenic relationship with conservatives in his long political career. In the 1980s, he was part of a group of young House members that moved his party in a more conservative and combative direction. In 1994, he led his party in a historic election that saw Republicans take control of the U.S. House for the first time in over 50 years.
He became speaker of the House after that election, but Republicans serving under him were often troubled by his erratic behavior. There was even a failed coup early in his speakership. Gingrich was ousted after only four years.
In 1994, Scarborough won a House seat. Scarborough, like several of his former colleagues, has been sharply critical of Gingrich and expressed disappointment in Gingrich's leadership while he was speaker.
"We ran [Gingrich] out of Congress in 1998 because he sold us out on taxes. He sold us out on spending. He went to the floor and he signed with Democrats on his last speech, calling us the 'perfectionist caucus.' He called us 'jihadists.'"
Scarborough also explained the difficulty conservatives face when examining the two current front-runners in the race – Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
Gingrich is "not a conservative, he's an opportunist, but here is the problem – so is Mitt Romney," said the MSNBC host.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Romney supporter, also brought up Gingrich's contentious past with conservatives in a "Meet the Press" interview.
"This is a guy who has had a very difficult political career, at times, and has been an embarrassment to the party. ... I'm not saying he will do it again in the future, but sometimes past is prologue," Christie said.
Some conservatives have also expressed concern about Gingrich's electability if he were to become the nominee.
"Newt Gingrich cannot carry a swing state in a general election if it were made of feathers," said Mike Murphy, columnist for Time Magazine and a former Republican strategist who has worked for Romney, on "Meet the Press."
When asked about the electability issue on "Meet the Press," Gingrich used the question as an opportunity to fashion himself as the "anti-establishment" candidate.
"The establishment is right to be worried about a Gingrich nomination because a Gingrich nomination means that we're going to change things and we're going to make the establishment real uncomfortable," Gingrich said.
There will be two Republican presidential debates this week, on Monday and Thursday, ahead of Florida's Jan. 31 primary.