Dick Armey "feels bad" for Gingrich

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 02: Former U.S. Representative Dick Armey speaks at 'Tea Party' a panel discussion at the 2010 New Yorker Festival at DGA Theater on October 2, 2010 in New York City. Amy Sussman/Getty Images the New Yorker

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 02: Former U.S. Representative Dick Armey
Amy Sussman/Getty Images the New Yorker

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey had few good things to say about the two leading Republican presidential candidates.

On CNN's "State of the Union," Armey said that Governor Mitt Romney is not a "reliable conservative," and that Speaker Newt Gingrich's "second-rate campaign" is going downhill.

Armey spent most of the segment critiquing Gingrich's campaign viability.

"I feel bad for him," Armey told host Candy Crowley, referring to Gingrich. "I think he's digressed into a state of taking a second-rate campaign and turning it into a first-rate vendetta" against Romney.

Armey continued: "And I think he's putting himself out of the game because he can't get over his obsession about his own hurt feelings over the campaign in Iowa."

In the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, polls showed Romney and Gingrich in a tight race until Romney unleashed a barrage of negative attack ads. Gingrich's poll numbers dropped, and he finished fourth in the state.

"He needs to get beyond that and get to the... people's business, if he expects to have any chance whatsoever," Armey said.

Armey was the second-highest Republican in the House of Representatives while Gingrich served above him as Speaker. The two have a history of tense encounters. In the late '90s, Armey and some Republican Congressmembers expressed displeasure with Gingrich's role as party leader.

Armey said Gingrich failed to capitalize on the momentum he gained in South Carolina.

"He had just one masterful moment where he transformed himself from perpetrator to victim, attacked the media, which ... is always popular with our base," Armey told Crowley. "I don't think Newt will be able to replicate that magic moment."

Armey also criticized Gingrich's news conference after his distant second place finish in Nevada Saturday.

"I thought that last night was really sad for him, and quite frankly, again, so much of Newt's whole life is overstates," Armey said. "He overstates the case in a hyperbolic fashion . . . it just looks vindictive."

Although Armey spent most of the segment critical of Gingrich, he had little good to say about the former Massachusetts Governor, who is not conservative enough for Armey.

"The governor continues to work along at a steady pace, and we are left with a dilemma that we are not going to get a reliable, small government conservative out of this nominating process," Armey said.

Armey is chair of FreedomWorks, an organization which dedicates money and resources to elect conservatives - often associated with the Tea Party - into Congress and state legislatures.

Despite not advocating for Romney, Armey said he would prefer a Romney presidency to an Obama reelection.

"We would rather have a Republican president that's not fully the guy we adore wanting our affections, than a Democrat president who despises us and covets the affections of our mortal enemies on public policy," Armey said.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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