Lamar Alexander’s primary opponent may have supported Newt Gingrich’s presidential run, but make no mistake: Newt’s for Lamar.

The former House speaker is endorsing Alexander (R-Tenn.) in his August primary match against state Rep. Joe Carr, a former Gingrich supporter during the 2012 presidential election. Gingrich joins other bold-faced names backing Alexander like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Art Laffer, a former economist for Ronald Reagan.

Their message: Alexander is the best chance for Tennessee to have influence in a GOP-controlled Senate, as his seniority is likely to give him a key role on education and health-care policy if Republicans are able to win control of the chamber.

“He’s one of the most ideal-oriented and solution-oriented people I’ve ever worked with,” Gingrich said in a telephone interview. “In the primary I believe that Lamar Alexander is far and away the best choice, I think he’ll win the general election handedly. It’s going to be a huge Republican year.”

Conservatives are making a case against Alexander largely based on his support for the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill last year, a vote the Tennessee Republican has firmly defended. Gingrich said that he didn’t agree with that particular vote, but if Republicans want to enact change in 2015, Gingrich said Alexander is the guy.

“There are details that Lamar and I disagree on, there are some things he would do that I wouldn’t,” Gingrich said. But Alexander is a “very reform oriented person.”

Alexander had seemed the logical choice for conservatives to attack after Dave Brat knocked off House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia. Radio host Laura Ingraham is trying to build support for Carr among the party’s right flank, but the effort has yet to catch on among national conservative groups. And there is a feeling among Republicans that conservatives already missed their best chance to beat an incumbent this cycle after Sen. Thad Cochran’s win over state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

As for Carr, who worked hard to become a Gingrich delegate, the former House speaker and current Crossfire host said: “I wish him well in some other race.”