01/24/2012 11:27 EST

Newt Gingrich: Stephen Harper Gets Shout-Out From Republican Hopeful

Newt Gingrich is a fan of Stephen Harper.

The Republican presidential hopeful gave the Canadian prime minister a shout out in his speech after winning the South Carolina primary on Saturday night.

Gingrich was taking President Obama to task for scrapping plans for the Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to Texas and took a moment to praise Harper and warn of an impending "Chinese-Canadian partnership" on energy (you can see his comments starting at 18:20 in the video above.)

Gingrich described Harper as a "conservative and pro-American" prime minister who is being forced to consider selling Canadian energy to China because of Obama's decision on Keystone. "What (Harper) has said is he's going to cut a deal with the Chinese and they'll build a pipeline straight across the Rockies to Vancouver," said Gingrich, referencing the proposal for the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

"Now, an American president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership is truly a danger to this country."

Gingrich was picking up on the growing sense that Canada is turning to China as an energy partner as an alternative to the United States.

Just this week, China's ambassador to Canada, Zhang Junsai, voiced his nation's desire to forge a "win-win" energy partnership with Canada. The ambassador touted the $5 billion Chinese state-owned enterprises invested in Canadian resources last year.

The comments come after Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird made it clear that Canada is looking east for oil sales in the wake of the Keystone decision.

Liberal interim leader Bob Rae joked that Gingrich and Harper "deserve each other," according to The Globe And Mail

A Liberal staffers was even spotted handing out Newt-Harper buttons on Tuesday, according to the Ottawa Citizen's Glen McGregor.

It's possible that, in a way, Rae is correct.

Harper has made it clear that since the end of George W. Bush's presidency Canada-U.S. relations have been getting worse.

Keystone is just one part of that. Harper has also expressed concerns about trade and border issues, such as the Buy American provisions proposed by Obama.

Harper may very well enjoy a closer relationship with a like-minded conservative, such as Gingrich or even Mitt Romney, than with Obama. We'll have to wait until November 2012 to find out.

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