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Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent held a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning that was supposed to be about how Newt Gingrich criticized a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare as "right-wing social engineering," but it was really about Gingrich being a jerk. As Mitt Romney's campaign tries to fend off Gingrich's challenge to his case for inevitablity, he's taking advantage of the fact that the Republican lawmakers who served with Gingrich don't seem to like him very much. Talent complained that when Gingrich was his speaker in the 1990s, his colleagues would "have to get up every morning and you'd have to check the newspapers and the clippings -- this was before the internet --  to see what the speaker had said that you'd have to clean up in your own district." Sununu said Gingrich's quip about the Medicare proposal was another instance of his "self-aggrandizement," his tendency to "throw out a clever phrase that had no other purpose than to make himself sound a little smarter than the republican leadership."

Politico's Mike Allen points out that Obama strategist David Axelrod said Wednesday, "I find it telling that not one of the Republicans who he swept into office in '94 have endorsed [Gingrich]. I mean, what does that say about his leadership and their concerns about his leadership?" Romney's campaign clearly finds it telling, too. Though Talent insisted that he didn't want to get into the dirt on Gingrich's personal life -- this was just supposed to be about his public record -- Romney's campaign is going after Gingrich's character through his flaws as a leader. Talent said Gingrich was not a "reliable and trusted leader... I say that with reluctance as someone who had him as a leader in the 1990s." While Gingrich "says interesting and insightful things, he also says outrageous things that come from nowhere, and he has a tendency to say them at times when they most undermine the conservative agenda." Talent is not alone in that assessment. Rep. Peter King has complained about Gingrich's behavior while speaker, The Hill's Molly K. Hooper and Russell Berman note that Romney has won the endorsements of 55 Republican legislators. Gingrich has just seven. And among those "strongly considering" endorsing Romney is John McCain -- who is known for as pretty much hating Romney after the 2008 Republican primary. 

The Washington Post's Philip Rucker reports New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that hinted at Gingrich's problems with personnel management when he pitched Romney to about 100 Republicans at a convenience store chain's headquarters in West Des Moines Wednesday. While Christie didn't say Gingrich's name, it's hard to believe he's talking about anyone else:

“When you look at these extraordinary candidates, say, ‘Is this the kind of person that is always going to make me proud in the Oval Office — and I never have to worry whether they’ll embarrass America, that I never have to worry will do something that will make me ashamed?"

"[Romney] is someone who I’ve come to know has an extraordinary heart. He loves his wife, he loves his children and he has absolutely no hesitation in showing that affection openly."

“We’ve seen for the last three years what it means when we have a legislator as president ... I have nothing against legislators....But they’ve never run anything. They don’t know how to run something.”

"Mitt Romney is the steady, mature leader we need for our party and our country.”

"The most important thing to remember about Newt Gingrich is that his colleagues in the House of Representatives effectively fired him as their leader even before the impeachment crisis, shifting power instead into the more competent hands of Tom DeLay," David Frum writes. "It was Tom DeLay who ran the caucus while Newt Gingrich was traveling the country giving speeches about Total Quality Management and the Struggle for Western Civilization ... There’s a reason Gingrich is fascinated by management gurus: he needs the help."

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