COLUMBIA, SC -- At least one member of South Carolina’s congressional delegation is excited about the rise of Newt Gingrich: Rep. Joe Wilson.
Wilson, who spoke to NBC News at a town hall here before last night's debate, said he was “intrigued by the surge by Speaker Gingrich,” adding that he thought he was a “person of vision” who, because he’s long been on the national stage, could have the staying power that has eluded other temporary front-runners.
Wilson's comments came before Gingrich said during the debate that he would allow some illegal immigrants -- who have lived in the United States for many years -- to stay in the country.
Illegal immigration is a huge issue in South Carolina, given that portions of the state's newly passed immigration law are being blocked by the Justice Department on grounds that they preempt federal authority.
While Wilson endorsed former candidate Tim Pawlenty earlier in the cycle, he suggested that Pawlenty’s support of Mitt Romney didn’t automatically mean Romney gets Wilson’s endorsement.
“I have great respect for Gov. Romney, I have great respect for the other candidates,” Wilson said, later adding: “One of my favorites is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. I could go on. Herman Cain certainly has made a very positive impression here in South Carolina.”