Nightly News   |  January 27, 2012

GOP v. Newt Gingrich

Influential Republicans are mobilizing to stop presidential candidate Newt Gingrich from ascending in the race. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>>> newt gingrich is facing a ton of incoming fire, not just from democrats or the romney campaign. from a lot of power players in the party who are throwing everything they can at him to derail his effort in florida. we get our report from our capitol hill correspondent kelly o'donnell.

>> reporter: when newt gingrich decisively won south carolina 's primary --

>> newt can win!

>> reporter: alarm bells, sirens went off.

>> because of worry's about newt's electability, there was almost a full-on panic at the top level of republican party .

>> i frankly don't care what the washington establishment thinks of me because i intend to change them.

>> reporter: influential republicans are mobilized to stop him.

>> i think we ought to send newt gingrich to the moon and mitt romney to the white house .

>> reporter: in florida today , john mccain , the party's choice last time around canceled an overseas trip tomorrow support romney.

>> we've watched him become stronger and stronger and we think it's time to rally around him.

>> reporter: this anti- gingrich assault was launched when elder statesman senator bob dole urged republicans to act before it is too late.

>> they look at newt gingrich and he's like a fun wild date in the primary, but in the general election , he's not the winning horse.

>> reporter: this goes beyond the white house . worried republicans say gingrich could damage the party's chance to win control of the senate and hold the house because poll after poll shows most voters have a negative view of gingrich .

>> he loses the female vote by 2-1. when you lose by that margin, candidates flee. they do not want to be seen with him, and he kills the turnout.

>> reporter: today speaking to house democrats, president obama gave that republican angst a name.

>> soon to be once again speaker of the house nancy pelosi .

>> reporter: republicans acknowledge this could backfire and actually help gingrich if enough voters recoil at the party telling them what to do. kelly o'donnell, nbc news, washington.