Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has a tangled history with Newt Gingrich, having helped organize a failed attempt to oust him as Speaker in 1997 while serving in the House. But he says he and Gingrich are talking again and he has at least some hope that the presidential candidate has ironed out his problems.
“I talked to him for about an hour last week,” Graham told reporters. “He certainly doesn’t hold grudges because the coup was held in my office.”
Gingrich has attracted few endorsements — and some very public criticism — from the lawmakers he used to lead in the House. Graham told TPM that Gingrich was a mixed bag based on his record.
“Well there’s two tales,” he said. “Transformative: we got things done in a bipartisan fashion that we could only dream of today. Welfare reform, balanced budget agreement with President Clinton, the Contract for America I thought was a transformative document.”
He continued: “Then there was the Newt that got us all frustrated and upset and that’s the guy who was erratic,” he said. “If you could bring out the best of Newt Gingrich and encapsulate that you could have a transformative president.”
Graham didn’t say whether he was sold on the Gingrich currently running for president, but he did note that based on their recent exchange, which included a discussion of Graham’s coup, he had some reason to believe he’d changed.
“He was really good at the ideas train; not really good at the railroad of legislation,” he said. “But I think he has learned from this experiences and the conversation I had with him was assuring.”
According to Graham, Newt told him he had become more “subtle” in the interim years.
“I said ‘good,’” Graham said.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.