With the all-important Florida primary looming, many state polls show Newt Gingrich has closed the gap between himself and the presumed frontrunner Mitt Romney -- and that's making many within the Republican party exceedingly nervous.

"If he's the nominee, it's a disaster. There is no way to sugar-coat it," said one GOP congressional strategist describing the tension after Gingrich's decisive win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

"There is a reason most people who know him best aren't supporting him," said a former House colleague still serving in Congress. And when a House Republican was asked why he'd endorsed Romney after serving with Gingrich for so long, he smiled and replied, "Because I served with Gingrich for so long."

While those quotes were given on condition of anonymity, veteran Republican leadership aide Ron Bonjean was willing to go on the record: "Most people on Capitol Hill and in Washington are very nervous about a Gingrich candidacy. It sends a shiver down a lot of Republican spines," he said. "You can actually feel the nervousness from Republicans around town that Gingrich could actually bring the craziness back of his speakership from the 1990s. It's everywhere."

Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, has a famously messy personal life -- he left his first two wives while they were battling serious illnesses and was having an affair with his current wife Callista while he was still in his second marriage -- but it's his reputation as a chaotic campaigner and undisciplined messenger that has so many in his party concerned.

They worry that having Gingrich at the top of the ticket might not just be bad for their chances of taking over the White House, it could also imperil candidates further down the ballot and hurt their odds of taking over the Senate as well.

But not everyone is upset. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, who has not endorsed a presidential candidate, said, "I think what we've seen from Newt that people like is willingness to take on the media and to really stand up and fight."

Still, if Gingrich does win, veteran GOP strategists say Senate Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders will be called up to contact key GOP donors and ask that they not contribute to Gingrich's campaign.


More From TSM Interactive