As Rick Perry said when he endorsed Newt Gingrich, the guy is “not perfect,” but whose name are we looking for on the ballot anyway? Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a Gingrich supporter, reminds us we’re not gonna find that name, anyway, because it’s not there.

“All of us have baggage, but Jesus is not on the ballot. Maybe it would be great if he were, but the point is we have to, in this case, pick the person who can best lead this country into the place that the Founding Fathers dreamed it could be,” Franks, who has endorsed Gingrich, told TheDC at the GOP presidential debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Monday night.

“I think if Barack Obama is re-elected, we will see our economy really diminished into a European socialism that will be hard to ever break free from.”

When asked why he chose to back Gingrich over the rest of the field, Franks said, “He has an almost asymmetric capability, a political casucci I would call it, of being able to take the left’s questions — who are nearly always laced with false premise — and turn them around before they ever know what hit them.”

As Gingrich gains momentum in South Carolina, bolstered by the pseudo-endorsement of Sarah Palin and the outright endorsement of Rick Perry, conservatives must grapple again with the question: Are they comfortable with Newt’s past — or, more accurately, with the way the GOP’s opponents will exploit it? He’s still a longshot to overtake Mitt Romney, but, as fewer and fewer alternatives to Romney exist, the possibility that voters will coalesce around Gingrich (or Santorum) becomes greater. It’s never too soon to question how a candidate would fare in the general election. As we’re learning, the MSM won’t miss a single opportunity to rehash Gingrich’s old mistakes — but Gingrich also won’t miss a single opportunity to, as Franks said, turn reporters’ questions around on them. While Gingrich’s antagonism toward the media hasn’t exactly earned him friends among reporters, it has seemed to resonate with the GOP base. It’s less likely, though, that that antagonism will appeal to independents, who are more like liberals than conservatives in terms of what TV news outlets they trust and don’t trust.

In the meantime, Franks’ message is important not merely for the primary, but also for the general. In 2008, Barack Obama might have had the aura of The One, but, with the exception of Esquire writers, fewer and fewer voters think of Obama as a messiah-like, salvific figure. Between Romney and Gingrich, Gingrich is actually the candidate who is probably most likely to illuminate Obama’s many faults in debates. Then again, Romney is probably most likely to maintain message discipline. The two candidates aren’t interchangeable, but, all polls aside, either could beat Obama with the active support of conservatives and targeted campaign appeals to independents. Neither is Jesus — but Obama’s not, either.