WASHINGTON — The idea that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich could become the Republican presidential nominee “frightens” Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Inouye, a Democrat, told Civil Beat that he did not work closely with Gingrich during their shared time in Congress, but said that he has been observing Gingrich in his candidacy thus far.

“From what I have seen in the last year, it frightens me if he becomes president,” Inouye said in a Wednesday interview. “He can be mean. He’s already demonstrated that, the way he treated some of the guys in the House when he was speaker.”

Inouye also called Gingrich’s political skills “dangerous,” as evidenced by the way he has shifted positions on key issues.

“He’s smooth, so he makes black appear pink,” Inouye said. “Those people are dangerous. One day he’s for doing something about the climate — the liberal position — now he’s the other end. One day he’s for helping the poor, today I don’t think that’s part of his vocabulary.”

Hawaii voters appear likely to continue to support Democratic President Barack Obama in the 2012 election. So far1, Hawaii donors have given $124,468 to Obama’s reelection campaign, and $4,900 to Gingrich, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. And a recent Civil Beat poll showed Obama’s approval rating in Hawaii is still very strong, at 63 percent.

Gingrich represented Georgia in the U.S. House for a 20-year stint between 1979 and 1999. Inouye has served in Congress since 1959.

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