More than a decade after ending their tenuous relationship as Oklahoma congressman and House speaker, Sen. Tom Coburn on Sunday described Newt Gingrich as "brilliant" but not the presidential candidate he would want in the White House.
"There are a lot of candidates out there," Coburn told Fox News Sunday. "I'm not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich's having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership."
Coburn was referring to his four years under Gingrich starting with the so-called "Republican Revolution" of 1994 -- the landslide victory for the Republican Party in the midterm elections. At the time, Republicans received a net gain of 54 seats in the House of Representatives and a pickup of eight seats in the U.S. Senate. Gingrich, deemed the leader of the "revolution," became speaker of the House while Coburn joined Congress as a freshman revolutionary.
While Gingrich was forced out in 1998, Coburn quit the House in 2000 to fulfill a term-limits pledge. In 2004, he successfully ran for the Oklahoma Senate seat. Coburn, who pledged to only serve two terms in the Senate, said Sunday that during his time in the House, he found Gingrich’s leadership to be "lacking oftentimes." Coburn would not offer greater detail, saying only, "He did a wonderful job of organizing (the revolution). He's brilliant. He has lots of positives, but I still, I would have difficulty supporting him as president of the United States."
Coburn also did not describe his opinion of Gingrich’s leadership style, but said, "There’s all types of leaders: leaders that instill confidence, leaders that are somewhat abrupt and brisk, leaders that have a standard for the people they’re leading and a different standard for themselves. I just found his leadership lacking."
According to some pundits, Gingrich rubbed a lot of Republicans the wrong way during his stint as speaker, and several Republicans and conservatives have said they don’t like the idea of Gingrich as the GOP nominee. They claim Gingrich is less conservative than challenger Mitt Romney, about whom many also don't express excitement. Nonetheless, the former House speaker has a lot of mojo right now, placing first in a Des Moines Register poll released late Saturday, with 25 percent support. That puts Gingrich ahead of Rep. Ron Paul, who has 18 percent, and Romney, who has 16 percent. The Iowa caucuses are four weeks from Tuesday.