Chris goes one on one with Newt Gingrich on the eve of the Republican Convention in Tampa.
Watch Hardball at 7 p.m. ET.
Newt Gingrich said he no longer holds a grudge against Mitt Romney, his one-time competitor for the Republican nomination for president.
“Mitt Romney did what he had to do to become the nominee,” Gingrich said. “He’s worked at this six years…When he got to the crunch, he was tough enough and smart enough to beat me in Florida,” he told Chris Matthews on Hardball Thursday night. (Video in two parts.)
Gingrich endorsed Romney for president earlier this month after dropping out of the race himself.
In a wide-ranging interview in which Gingrich compared Romney to Dwight Eisenhower at one point, the former speaker of the House praised Romney for assembling a “very smart group of people,” and listening to them. He called the candidate “a successful politician,” while maintaining that Romney had not always told the truth about Gingrich on the campaign trail.
While Gingrich and several other Republicans who competed in the GOP primary are credited with initiating the attacks on Romney’s record as a businessman, it is the Obama re-election campaign that has more recently taken up that line of attack. Gingrich said he now believes such messages won’t work.
“Here’s the problem they’ve got,” he said of the Obama campaign. “It didn’t work. I wouldn’t have won it on that issue. It doesn’t work in general.”
Gingrich is expected to join Romney for a Donald Trump-headlined fundraiser for the Republican candidate in Las Vegas next week.
Gingrich didn’t skip a beat when asked by Matthews why the Republican party doesn’t just “lose the birther stuff” and drop those like Trump who have raised questions around President Obama’s birth certificate “off the back of the caboose?”
“Beats me,” he said.
Get the popcorn out! Special guest Newt Gingrich will join Chris Matthews on 'Hardball' tonight. This will mark the first major appearance on MSNBC for the Former House Speaker and the Republican Presidential candidate.
Chris is expected to ask Gingrich about his endorsement behind GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, his thoughts on President Obama’s campaign strategy and the overall 2012 presidential-race battles.
For more, please visit http://hardballblog.msnbc.msn.com/.
Down in Louisiana today, Newt Gingrich had a little fun with the Etch-A-Sketch zingers. Watch the 45-second clip from our show today of Gingrich's gator laughs:
Chris put it best: "No one's a greater opportunist than the Newt-ster!"
Let me finish tonight with this.
I have never witnessed a more desultory campaign for president than the death march now proceeding in the Republican party. It's become downright spectral.
Why are the Republicans moving toward the nomination of someone who elicits emotions ranging from zero to the nerve centers usually requiring serious anger management?
Let's put it on the table: the only people excited about Mitt Romney being the Republican nominee for president are those ticked off at the very prospect. Let's go further: do those who are banking the Romney campaign really want him "in" the White House with even a shred of the motive they possess for getting Barack Obama "out" of it?
Of course not.
The one shared observation of those watching this campaign with any degree of interest is that it runs against, not with, the national inclination. Americans either want to take another bet on Obama or they deeply wish the opposite.
Where's Romney in all this? Because if he truly does have a serious historic problem with the President, it's hard to see where. He created the model for the Obama healthcare plan. He's a fiscal moderate and a social moderate as well. When he was in office up in Boston, the only time he was ever in office, he was an old-style New England moderate. So clearly within the 40 yard lines that you could hardly call him a man of the right. He was barely a man of the center-right.
Now he's clawing his way to prove something that is manifestly "not" true--and everyone on the planet can see it.
What stands in his way?
It's not clear. Rick Santorum is running a gutsy campaign based on the fact that he is not Mitt Romney, as is Newt Gingrich. These two fellows seem to be offering themselves less as Romney's rivals than his pall bearers. They want him out of contention.
But whom do they offer as the alternatives?
It's not so clear. Rick Santorum now speaks of the dire need for Republicans to simply run "a conservative." Him? Maybe. Newt Gingrich can't be seriously offering himself for anything, not as the actual candidate anyway. He is not, after all, insane.
So the death march continues through Illinois and on to the rest of the country increasingly sure of only one thing: it doesn't want what the Republicans are offering.
Perhaps history will tell us why.
"A thousand injuries I suffered Fortunato. But when he turned to insult, I vowed revenge."
Those are the opening words to Edgar Allen Poe's short story – “The Cask of Amontillado” – of how one man's desire for revenge toward a rival led to him burying the rival alive.
That was a tale of horror, of course, a dark if brilliant fantasy.
For a case of real-life of revenge in real-life American history, think of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Burr and Hamilton held a duel that led to the death of Hamilton, the country's first Treasury Secretary. Hamilton had said something to someone about Burr being "despicable." So here we are watching something between the horror of a great poet's imagination and what we read in our history books.
Newt Gingrich has a deep and abiding case against Mitt Romney. Romney has spent millions with the single purpose of destroying Gingrich as a candidate. Oh, not just that, destroying him as a public figure, rendering him so repellent in the country's mind that he's lucky to still make Wikipedia. He's attacking not just Newt the politician but Newt the person. He's vilifying him, villainizing him, trampling him so deeply into the dust of Iowa and Florida that even liberals are starting to root for him.
So here's a question: how's this going to end? Romney keeps ridiculing Newt, rubbing it in, laughing over the man's defeat. He's out there publicly enjoying Newt's humiliation, chortling over it.
This isn't professional. It isn't smart. It will reap trouble for him. There's only one reason for Newt to give up this hunt and that's for Romney to get him to. If Romney thinks adding insult to injury is going to get Newt - or anybody to move on, he may be good at business but he's no politician.
Alexander Hamilton could have pulled back on calling Aaron Burr "despicable," could have - but didn't.
We don't have duels these days. We don't have talk of duels - except when Senator Zell Miller talks to "me" - but we do have politics.
Newt isn’t quitting this fight. This political duel is going to continue and it's going to get more deadly. There's a presidential nomination at stake here and Romney cruizin' for more bruzzin.'
And liberals, believe it or not, are rooting for the Newt.
Mitt Romney made another unforced error by saying he's not concerned about the very poor -- and Democrats are pouncing. Chris talks to Politico's John Harris and Salon's Joan Walsh.
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On the eve of the Florida Primary, Chris talks to Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski about the fight between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
Watch Hardball at 7 p.m. ET
Let me finish tonight with this. The reported collapse in Mitt Romney's poll numbers reminds me of the old story about the well-advertised dog food.
The campaign to sell it was great. It came in a brightly-colored can. The owner thought it was the best possible food to be serving his pet. But no matter what, after all the great advertising, and the great response by the owner, the dog just wouldn't eat it - he just kept looking at his bowl.
This is the Republican Party today. After all the advertising and the sales pitch about how good the dog food is, the dog just doesn't like it.
The reason is pretty clear. Romney's not what they want, especially this year. The Republican right is angry this year and Romney isn't. He wants the job alright. He wants to beat Obama to get it - but he's not out to beat Obama for the very "purpose" of beating Obama the way red-hot Republicans are.
Newt is. You watch him tear into the moderator last night and you get it. He's ticked off the way most Republicans are ticked off. He doesn't dislike the media the way most red hot Republicans do. He's not angry with the government the way they are.
This is an election primarily about the country's mood. Newt Gingrich speaks with the attitude of conservative Republicans that the country's establishment is out to get them.
Because he does, he has a great chance to be its leader.
On tonight’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford will appear as a guest to talk about the upcoming primary in South Carolina and Marianne Gingrich’s interview with ABC. Sanford is expected to discuss how and if she thinks Marianne Gingrich’s interview with ABC will play with evangelical women in the state of South Carolina and whether she believes it will have a ripple effect on Newt Gingrich’s candidacy.
“Hardball” airs at 5PM and 7PM ET on MSNBC. Follow me on twitter at @tanyahayre.
Newt Gingrich has called Barack Obama a "food stamp president." "Food stamp president!" Got it? Thought we were past this, didn't you? You know, the talk of "welfare queens" and phrases like that.
Well, you either get the message or you don't. If you don't, there's no point arguing about it. Most people do get the point, meaning most people white or black get the point.
Speaker Gingrich went at Juan Williams last night in just this vein. He knew what he was doing. What was all the cheering about when Gingrich responded the way he did? Gingrich was making the questioner the issue, very successfully I might add. He had the crowd going in his favor. The white crowd in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina were clearly on his side against the guy asking the questions, Juan Williams.
He asked if Gingrich could see that saying black Americans should want jobs "not food stamps" was insulting. Gingrich then laid into him, saying that President Obama had put more Americans on food stamps than any other president.
He got a lot of applause for that. Why would saying that get you a big hearty applause? Because this whole conversation isn't about poverty - but about race. It's about a candidate who knows just how to make his point to appeal to a certain kind of voter.
Again, there's no point arguing this. You either here the code being used or you don't. If someone can honestly say that talking about "food stamps," bringing up "food stamps," calling a President a "food stamp" president when no one else on the planet is talking about food stamps, knows precisely what he's talking about.
It's about a cartoon. A cartoon that the people getting public assistance are lazy, don't want to work and are black. You talk about how low this campaign has gotten: just look here. And by the way, next time you're in Washington, D.C., or any other big urban area, I've got an educational trip for you to take.
Get up early, earlier than you usually do, say, about 6 or 6:30 and drive through the poor-er parts of town - and watch who's up waiting at the bus stops, heading to work. Poor people, a lot of them, a lot of them black, are the hardest working people in the country.
Gingrich is a smart guy. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
"Nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of a hanging." The English poet Samuel Johnson actually put it this way: "When a man knows he is to be hanged...it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
The emerging prospect of Newt Gingrich as the party's nominee for president late next summer has concentrated the Republican mind.
To those who have a big stake in winning the election and returning to the White House, to all the power and perks of the presidency, Newt Gingrich looms as a greater threat than Barack Obama. Top Republicans believe the difficult economy offers them a real chance at beating the president. The far harder problem is beating Newt Gingrich who is now riding at the top of Republican polls. If they can't beat him, the party suddenly looms as the underdog in next fall's race for the presidency.
But how do the Republican leaders and wisemen free the caucus and primary voter from the killer instinct that's sending them to Newt? How do they stop the hard-chargers from voting for a guy who promises in word and attitude to do to Obama what they most want done to him: attack him, all the while debasing him, doing everything but spit at him? How do they stop the voter from wanting their party's candidate to show the same hatred toward the president that they, the party's thinkers, have? If contempt is what they, the party thinkers and leaders, voice toward Obama, how can they rightly deny their voters the right to have a candidate who does just that?
It'll be interesting to watch the Republican leaders and thinkers find ways in the next several months to measure and modify their words to avoid the anger of the party's base itself. Otherwise they will be condemned to repeat what the party did in 1964, run a presidential candidate who said "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."