CHARLESTON - Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made a stop in town on Friday to help raise funds for 1st Congressional District candidate Tim Scott.

Scott said he was inspired by Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America when Scott first ran for Charleston County Council.

"When I think about Newt Gingrich, I think about 1994," he said, referencing the year in which Gingrich led a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives.

Scott spoke of a "government bubble," comprised of high spending and large deficits that he said is the next crisis threatening the United States.

"We must reclaim America by reclaiming our financial common sense," he said to applause.

Gingrich began his short speech at the $500-per-person event by praising Scott, especially the contract he had printed on the back of campaign brochures.

He then moved on to other topics, focusing on the Obama administration and the national government at large. He said Obama "saved [Jimmy] Carter from being the worst president in modern times."

He called the government incompetent regarding national security and said too much regulation was getting in the way of small businesses.

Gingrich made a stop on his way to Charleston to speak with gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. He said he gave her advice on building a relationship with the state Legislature.

"She's gonna work to build a team so that the entire team gets the job done," he said.

The crowd at downtown restaurant Tristan, about 40-strong, included former Gov. Jim Edwards and GOP attorney general candidate Alan Wilson. U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson made a brief appearance toward the end of the event.

Gingrich has been named by some as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012.

Although he said he had not made the decision officially, he said he had not ruled out the possibility of running for president. "We're looking at it very seriously," he said, emphasizing his current focus on this fall's races.

Gingrich's endorsement of Scott is the fourth to come from a potential 2012 GOP presidential nominee. He already has been backed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Alaska Gov. and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

"I think that's indicative that ... all the votes are coming through South Carolina," Scott said.

Scott's November opponents include perennial Democratic candidate Ben Frasier, Keith Blandford of the Libertarian Party, Robert Dobbs of the Green Party, M.E. McCullough of the United Citizens Party and Jimmy Wood of the Independent Party.

Reach Melvin Backman at 937-5550 or mbackman@postandcourier.com.