How is Newt’s incoherent and muddled messaging playing with the party faithful? Judging by this cringe-worthy video clip of an interaction he endured with an irate Iowa voter, not well:
IOWAN: What you just did to Paul Ryan is unforgivable.
GINGRICH: I didn't do anything to Paul Ryan.
IOWAN: Yes, you did. You undercut him.... you're an embarrassment to our party.
GINGRICH: I'm sorry you feel that way.
IOWAN: Why don't you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself?
[South Carolina Governor Nikki] Haley, whose promise to endorse a presidential candidate has made her a key power broker in the Republican primary fight, joined in the chorus Tuesday and said she is "terribly disappointed" in Gingrich.
"What he said was absolutely unfortunate," Haley told CNN in a phone interview. "Here you've got Representative Ryan trying to bring common sense to this world of insanity, and Newt absolutely cut him off at the knees."
"When you have a conservative fighting for real change, the last thing we need is a presidential candidate cutting him off at the knees," she added.
This mess is brushing perilously close to a full-fledged crisis for Team Newt. Carol thinks he's already sunk. I’m eager to hear what he has to say on the conference call later today. Stay tuned for updates.
UPDATE - Nationally-syndicated talk show host Bill Bennett grilled Newt on his comments this morning. The exchange was testy, at times. Listen Here. "Paul Ryan's in the fight of his life, and you're shooting at him from behind."
UPDATE II - The overall tone of Newt's conference call with right-leaning reporters was respectful, but a bit tense. Ed Morrissey's write-up offers a helpful summary of the questions that were asked, as well as thumbnail sketches of the candidate's responses. I'll offer a few more thoughts later on, as well.