From the House that Newt Gingrich once ran through the Washington establishment to state capitals across the nation, some Republicans are going public with their concerns that Mr. Gingrich would be a weak general election candidate and a drag on the party’s fortunes if he won the presidential nomination.
“Since we don’t know how he got here, I don’t know how he can be stopped,” said Ed Rogers, a longtime Washington lobbyist and party strategist who worked for the first President George Bush.
Mr. Rogers, who has not endorsed anyone, is like many in the party who esteem Mr. Gingrich for his achievement in leading Republicans to the control of Congress in 1994, after 40 years in the House minority, but who recoil from the prospect of him at the top of the ticket given the controversy, scandal and electoral defeats that defined his four years as speaker.
Late Saturday, former Senator Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican nominee, endorsed Mitt Romney, whose campaign is now anticipating a long and hard-fought nominating battle against Mr. Gingrich. Last week, Mr. Romney won the endorsement of Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina, which holds the first Southern primary, on Jan. 21.
Mr. Gingrich’s team has dismissed the criticism as coming from Romney supporters, and has pointed to grass-roots support for his candidacy. For all the anxiety about him, from establishment Republicans to Tea Party conservatives, he has surged in polls nationwide and in the early voting states. Many voters say they have been persuaded by his combative, confident and learned performances in 13 Republican debates that Mr. Gingrich could best take on President Obama.
Yet some Republicans on Capitol Hill say that Mr. Gingrich would not only lose to Mr. Obama, but that he could take other Republican candidates down, too, in a year when high unemployment has driven hopes within the party of capturing the White House and the Senate while holding control of the House.
Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican who served in the House when Mr. Gingrich was speaker, has been an outspoken critic. “I’ve had any number of members of Congress come over to me and thank me for what I’m saying,” he said. “They say, ‘This guy is going to kill us if he gets the nomination.’ ”
Mr. Gingrich was “a disaster” as speaker and most likely would be as a nominee, Mr. King said, given his “compulsion to exaggerate,” erratically changing ideas, intellectual arrogance and the grandiosity of his self-comparisons to the likes of Winston Churchill and others.
Representative Charles Bass, a New Hampshire Republican who was elected in the Gingrich-led wave of 1994, agreed. He recently endorsed Mr. Romney.