Newt Gingrich photo

Press Conference in Las Vegas Following the Nevada Caucuses

February 04, 2012

[remarks joined in progress]

REPORTER: [inaudible] continue a lot, you know, in public places. What --

GINGRICH: Did you miss me?

REPORTER: We did. [laughter]

GINGRICH: Thank you. I feel good. I was worrying that you would not have noticed.

REPORTER: What kind of conversations took place and what some of the conclusions that's been out there?

GINGRICH: Well, we got together for a very practical reason. I was surprised by the degree to which the establishment has closed ranks and made quite clear that they're desperate over the prospect of a Gingrich presidency. I was surprised by George Soros, cheerfully explaining in Davos that he was happy with either Obama or Romney, because it didn't make much difference in policy, it was just a change of personality.

And I was surprised at "The New York Times" article on the Romney campaign's decision that they had to destroy Newt Gingrich. So we stopped and said all right, if this -- if this is the objective reality of the campaign, the entire establishment will be against us, the scale of Wall Street money starting with Goldman Sachs will be amazing, and the campaign will be based on things that aren't true.

Then how do you define the campaign for the average American so they get to choose, do they want two George Soros-approved candidates in the general election or would they like a conservative versus one George Soros-approved candidate?

And we frankly have spent the last four days laying out a campaign for the next few months in which, although we will be outspent, we think we can communicate through the clutter and we think we'll be able to draw decisively for the American people how big the difference is.

You know Reagan had this challenge with John Conley. Goldwater had this challenge with Nelson Rockefeller. We've had past Republican campaigns in which the establishment had massive financial advantages. Reagan lost five straight primaries before he began winning in 1976.

I'm pretty comfortable that when you come down to it, as we go state to state to state, a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase, George Soros-approved candidate of the establishment probably is not going to do very well. And I'm happy to have that debate with Governor Romney and I will debate him one-on-one anywhere, any time that he's willing to stand up and explain his record without the kind of gimmicks he used in Florida.

REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, you seem to be looking past -- [crosstalk]

GINGRICH: No, no. Right here.

REPORTER: I'm sorry.

GINGRICH: [inaudible]. Everybody will get a chance. The Super Bowl is not until 3:29. [laughter]

That is not option for [inaudible]. Go ahead.

REPORTER: There are reports that Sheldon Adelson has been meeting with Mitt Romney and has said that he will, you know, help him financially?


REPORTER: Sheldon?

GINGRICH: I have no idea.

REPORTER: Do you -- would that bother you if he is --

GINGRICH: First of all, I think what he's quoted as saying is if I had dropped out he would be willing to support Governor Romney. And I will ask him myself. If the choice is Obama and Romney, then there's no choice. I think that's how -- that's how Sheldon Adelson feels.

Look, Sheldon's primary driving force is the survival of the United States and Israel in the face of an Iranian nuclear weapon. And compared to Barack Obama, virtually anybody is a better candidate. So that doesn't matter me at all. Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: Ty. Mr. Speaker, you seem to be looking past the February states and really aiming at Super Tuesday. How much of your focus in the next couple of weeks is going to be on Super Tuesday states? You're obviously spending a lot of time in Ohio this week. Can you lay out what the next month will mean in terms of a Super Tuesday strategy?

GINGRICH: Well, one of the things that some of you, as you keep score, you don't quite follow me on is I actually think we're a national system in terms of information flow. So I think if -- you know, if I'm on "Hannity" or if I happen to be in Associated Press, to take an example, or if I'm on one of the networks or even in "The New York Times," that in fact it reaches the whole country.

So I run a campaign which twice now has made me the frontrunner and I suspect will again by the Texas primary or so, that really is a national campaign. I think next week this coming week, we're in Colorado, Minnesota, and Ohio. And then we do CPAC in Washington. I think the follow Monday we start three days in California. And -- you know, so we're going to be all over the place again and again and again. But we intend to compete in every single state in the country, and I think you can count on us being competitive in every single state in the country. Yes, sir?

REPORTER: Nancy Pelosi came out and said that she stands with her fellow Catholics in favor of President Obama's decision on the [inaudible].

GINGRICH: She stands with her fellow Catholics.

REPORTER: That's what she said. I was talking about the --

GINGRICH: Her fellow Catholics meaning Archbishop Dolan, the entire hierarchy, every bishop, every priest? Those are her fellow Catholics?

REPORTER: That's who she says.

GINGRICH: I just -- well, you might go and ask the Archbishop Dolan how and whether or not he thinks the term "fellow Catholic" applies to Archbishop Dolan.

Yes, sir?

REPORTER: Do you consider --

GINGRICH: Let me go back for a second to say to you, the Obama administration has declared war on religious freedom in this country. And people need to understand that. This is a decision so totally outrageous, and then the illustration of such radical secular ideology, that I believe the entire hierarchy will oppose it every inch of the way. It has nothing to do with specific details. It has to do with whether or not the government of the United States can tell a religious institution you must give up your religious beliefs.

Now that's what Obamacare has come to mean. The right of a Washington politician and a Washington bureaucrat to tell you that you may no longer worship God the way you want unless you're willing to pay a penalty for doing so. And I think as the average American comes to understand that, they will be repulsed at the arrogance and the anti-religious bigotry of the Obama administration.

Yes, back there.

REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, have you considered also that perhaps voters just aren't buying what you're selling? I mean you've been on the ball now in five states, you've won one but you've lost four. And you also talk about debates, but you've had 18 of them and generally you've been considered to have done well in them, and still it's not showing up in the polls. [crosstalk]

GINGRICH: I'm not going to defend the outcome in a state where I was outspent 5-1. And I suggest you're sophisticated enough you understand that the idea of taking a state where the other guy spent five times as much money, and many of his ads were false, as described by both the "Wall Street Journal" and "National Review", that maybe that's not a very accurate measure. When it was an entirely positive campaign, up through mid-December, I was ahead by 12 points in the Gallup.

I want to come back, again, I was actually ahead in Gallup about a week ago. So I think in a few more weeks I'll be ahead in Gallup again.

REPORTER: Is that just ignoring the reality of the campaign? I mean he has gone negative and it's working, and you know --

GINGRICH: Right. So throughout the campaign, to use your words, he has gone negative, and it is working. And what I'm asserting to you is over time, I don't believe the American people will approve of a campaign which actually suppresses turnout. I think it's amazing, if you all look at Florida, every county I carried in Florida had an increased turnout. Every county Romney carried in Florida had a decreased turnout.

Now that's just sober, every Republican in the country, if the only way that Romney is suppressing turnout, how is he going to -- how is he going to do that in the fall if the only way he wins is outspending somebody 5-1? How is that going to apply to a campaign against Obama who is going to outspend him?

I just suggest here that there are underlying factors in this race, and I'm quite happy to continue campaigning, and I'm kind of mildly amazed at the news media's desperation for finding some excuse to say, wouldn't you please quit this evening?


REPORTER: [inaudible] successful going forward, Mitt Romney is still in the path the way his record now. [inaudible].

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I'm not sure that Mitt Romney is in my head. I mean think that's an interesting analysis on your part. I'm sure that with a psychiatric degree that will get you a tremendous opportunity to have new clients. I think there's a clear contrast. I think that the clear contrast is really important. And I think that over time we're going to drive home that clear contrast in a way which will be enormously to his disadvantage.

I think the American people want somebody who is genuinely conservative, who is prepared to change Washington. Just take -- take his one comment this week about not caring about the poor, which we know was a mistake. Just as common about liking to fire people was a mistake. Et cetera.

I would suggest to you that a conservative who cares about the poor, a conservative who cares about every American of every background, a conservative who says, why don't we rethink the entire safety net so it becomes a trampoline, which is not me. It's Jack Kemp. It's a whole range of people who've been working on these ideas for 25 years.

And as Charles Krauthammer said, Romney's comments this week were a sign he doesn't quite understand conservative philosophy. Now I think that's important for the country, for Republicans, for conservatives to think about. Nominating one more moderate, like 1996 when we lost badly, like 2008 when we lost badly, I don't think that's a very good future for the Republican Party.

And because it's vital to beat Barack Obama, I don't think it's a very good future for the country.

Yes, sir?

REPORTER: [inaudible]

GINGRICH: Yes. I was just -- I was surprised. Go back and look at the second debate. I've never had a person stand next to me in a civil engagement and be a substantially dishonest as he was. I mean go look at what he said. You have Larry Sabato in the middle of the debate tweeting that Romney was being factually false.

Now I didn't have any good mechanisms, I will by the next debate. I didn't have any good mechanisms to turn to somebody who was being blatantly dishonest to the entire country as a candidate to the president. If you can't tell the truth as a candidate for the president, which is by the way a charge that has been made by McCain, by Fred Thompson, by Huckabee.

If you can't tell the truth as a candidate for president, how can the country possibly expect you to lead as president? And I frankly was stunned. I make no bones about this. In the second Florida debate, I had nothing to say, because I had nothing to say because I had never before seen a person who I thought of as a serious candidate for president be that fundamentally dishonest. And it was blatant and it was deliberate and he knew he was doing it.

REPORTER: Do you plan on dealing with that?

GINGRICH: I will -- I don't want to tell you now. Please, Jeff, you have to give us a few trade secrets. Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: You mentioned that Romney [inaudible]

GINGRICH: No. I think this is a state he won last time. I think we will do better than John McCain did last time. And John McCain went on to a reasonably good success. Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: [inaudible]

GINGRICH: I haven't seen -- I haven't seen the reports. I have no idea what they're referring to. And I'll be happy to look at them.

Yes, sir?

REPORTER: Last night you said you're ashamed of the negativity in this campaign. First, have you engaged yourself in any negativity in this campaign?

GINGRICH: Of course.

REPORTER: And are you willing to commit to give up any negativity for the remainder of --

GINGRICH: You can't unilaterally disarm in a world where somebody is willing to be as aggressive. What?

REPORTER: If you're ashamed of it, why not?

GINGRICH: Because as you know, as a realistic person, you might as well withdraw from the campaign. Now that's a fact.

REPORTER: You don't think you could win this campaign with a positive -- purely positive?

GINGRICH: No. I tried that -- I think if you were with me in Iowa saw it. I stayed relentlessly positive in Iowa and lost 22 points. When we were in a totally positive campaign, I was beating Romney by huge margin.

REPORTER: So if you're ashamed of it but -- [crosstalk]

GINGRICH: I think it's terrible -- you know, because I think it's terrible that the American system is reduced to negative ads, some of them false. I wish it wasn't happening, and I think we would be better serving our children and grandchildren if it wasn't happening. But it's a fact. It is a fact. And unfortunately it's a fact and if you're not willing to stand and fight, then you have to get out of the race. And I think that's a very sad comment. Yes, ma'am?

KEILAR: Some sources have suggested that you've decided you want to go more positive in the tone, but that doesn't really seem to match your news conference. So is that true and what do you want to see about the tone moving forward?

GINGRICH: Well, I think we're going to make a whole series of positive speeches. And again, I'm perfectly happy to talk about the idea of turning the safety net into a trampoline. I'm perfectly happy to talk about ideas we have for creating a much better future in terms of tax cuts and less regulation.

I gave an entire speech last night at a local church, which was a positive statement about American exceptionalism and the nature of America. And I'm very happy to do that. I also predict to you that it is relatively harder to get your profession to cover totally positive speeches. So I can give hours and hours of totally positive speeches. Now that doesn't necessarily mean they'll show up anywhere.

KEILAR: Is it positive -- Newt, if I may follow, is it positive about -- is it a positive message about America's future but negative about Mitt Romney? Is that the plan?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the point is, there is a positive future for America if we elect a conservative, and I'm happy to talk about why that's true and I'm happy to talk about why I think it's very, very hard for somebody who invented Romneycare to be part of that future.

Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: [inaudible]


REPORTER: The article that mistakenly said that Trump would endorse you, do you think that was [inaudible] anyway, and are you hoping to find other endorsement?

GINGRICH: I mean I couldn't understand those articles when they came out because nobody I knew thought he was going to endorse me. So we all thought it was kind of weird. And those of you who wrote those articles ought to go back to their sources and ask why they misinformed you. But it's a free country.

Look, there are few people better at manipulating the press than Donald Trump and he proved it once again. You know, I -- you have to admire the sheer -- yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: You cheered the fact that you don't use political consultants in your campaign, the explanation that we've gotten many times is that you are the brains behind in this, the machine behind your campaign. You talked about not responding quickly enough to Governor Romney. Do you think that if you would've had consultants, it would have been different and are you looking at adding consultants moving forward?

GINGRICH: No. It wouldn't have been. First of all, how is a consultant going to train you in advance and say to you in advance -- I mean until I saw "The New York Times" article about the discussion they had last Sunday morning, it hadn't occurred to me that you would have the level of ruthlessness and the level of dishonesty we saw last week. And I've been around a long time and have been through a fair number of campaigns and a fair number of fights.

And the language in that article is startling and I think frankly, a break with the American tradition.

Yes, sir? What?

REPORTER: Is it fair to say you are running your campaign and you are your own campaign manager?

GINGRICH: Well, no, I think Michael Crow is the campaign manager. We have a lot of very smart people, but it's fair to say that when it comes to what the candidate does and what the candidate says, that I bear full responsibility. I don't get talking points, I don't get coaching in a sense that apparently Governor Romney did until they fired the guy who was coaching him, which I think is by the way pretty bizarre.

I mean here you have a guy who comes in and does a pretty good job. The only two debates Romney has done well he was coached by this guy and they fire him? It's just kind of weird. You're the last question. Last question.

REPORTER: You talked about the difficulties in running a campaign. [inaudible]. Reports are coming out that your campaign still have $600,000 in debt. Can you [inaudible] some finances --

GINGRICH: I don't understand where that report came from because it doesn't fit our internal numbers and it doesn't fit, you know, I mean, some clever person went back and jury-rigged their interpretation of the last 30 days.

REPORTER: You talk about running [inaudible], how about --

GINGRICH: Well, that's the one -- that's the one state we frankly messed up in. And I've been pretty honest about that. You know. We did the wrong thing, hired the wrong person, it didn't work. But we'll be in 49 states and the territories. And we'll be very, very competitive in all of them.

Listen, I hope you all have a great Super Bowl. Take a few hours off from politics. Try to enjoy life. Thank you very much. [applause]

BLITZER: All right. If you thought that there was going to be a softer, milder Newt Gingrich, forget about it. Newt Gingrich making it absolutely, positively clear. Hold on a second.

GINGRICH: Forget all this other junk. OK? Paul Lubbers is my son-in-law who's from Sheboygan who for Christmas gave my daughter one share of Packer stock and I [inaudible] one share. We had a serious conference call, and we concluded that we should be for the team that beat the Pack. Now it's painful, but I'm for the Giants, period. There you go. [applause]

Newt Gingrich, Press Conference in Las Vegas Following the Nevada Caucuses Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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