While praising the “great courage” of Rick Santorum, who suspended his presidential bid earlier today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came out swinging Tuesday night, slamming GOP rival Mitt Romney for a negative and "dishonest" primary campaign.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV from Philadelphia, where Gingrich was campaigning in preparation for the Keystone State’s April 24 primary, Gingrich suggested he may be set for a major comeback.
While most political pundits see the delegate math in favor of Romney, a handful of primary wins for the former House Speaker could deny Romney the nomination on a first ballot come August.
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Gingrich revealed to Newsmax.TV that he had placed a call to Santorum but had not yet spoken with the former Pennsylvania senator since he announced the suspension of his campaign. Santorum cited the declining health of his three-year-old daughter, Bella, whom he later said was suffering from pneumonia in addition to a rare genetic disorder.
“I think it’s entirely the power of money. Right after I beat him in South Carolina they spent $20 million in three weeks in Florida,” said Gingrich, who seemed more energized than he has in recent interviews.
Gingrich complained with some bitterness that the Romney campaign had been too negative against fellow Republicans.
“I didn’t mind being drowned in money, but I did mind that many of the ads were dishonest,” he said of Romney. “I think that’s a mistake on his part.”
He added that he would like to see less negativity in the final months of the primary battle leading up to the GOP convention in Tampa this August.
“I think that he has enough resources and enough of an advantage,” said Gingrich. “This last phase of the campaign — he ought to be able to win it in a positive campaign — not a negative one.”
While the lopsided balance sheets have been a key factor in the Republican race, Gingrich said that it would be interesting to see how Romney would fare against President Obama’s political war chest.
“I think what you’re seeing is the ability to go to Wall Street and raise millions of dollars has had an impact— and it’s one of the things that will be sobering this fall because as much as Romney can raise— I suspect Obama can raise more,” he said.
Despite his differences with Romney, Gingrich said he would be willing to help the candidate in any way he could should Romney become the party’s standard bearer up to and perhaps including a place on the Romney ticket if asked.
“I’ll do anything I can to make sure that we defeat Barack Obama,” he declared. “I’ve said all along — Gov. Romney said the same thing as did Sen. Santorum — each of us would like to be president. But we’re all dedicated to the idea of beating Obama.”
While acknowledging that Romney will “be the nominee” if he is successful in attaining 1,144 undisputed delegates, Gingrich said he would still go to Tampa to help shape the Republican platform on behalf of the 180,000 donors who have made mostly small contributions of $250 and less to his campaign.
“I think we need a party platform that is conservative and not Etch A Sketch. There are solid conservatives that want a conservative platform and I want to represent them,” he insisted.
Asked to elaborate on the platform issues he would take to Tampa, Gingrich cited the importance of a plan for America to gain energy independence so that “no future president will ever bow to a Saudi King,” a running theme in his campaign as well as the need for a balanced budget and paying down the national debt.
“If we develop an American energy independence that would add about four million barrels a day in production here in the U.S.,” he explained, "that will increase the number of jobs by several million. That would also increase royalties to the federal government.”
Gingrich wants to allocate royalties from oil and gas production on federal lands as well as from offshore production into what he describes as a “debt repayment fund” that would be used to reduce the burgeoning national debt.
“So insist on a balanced budget and insist that we create a debt repayment fund and dedicate all oil and gas royalties to paying down the federal debt which would be a terrific thing to do for our children and grandchildren,” Gingrich said of his specific platform ideas.
At one point, Gingrich made a comparison between his campaign and the iconic “Rocky Balboa” character, which many people associate with the consummate underdog —and also Philadelphia.
“I think it shakes up the race one more time,” he said of Santorum’s decision to pull out. Gingrich described the many months on the campaign trail as both unpredictable and fascinating while acknowledging that “it’s kind of an interesting feeling to still be standing here and still be in the race.”
Though Santorum is more ideologically aligned with Gingrich than Romney, Gingrich predicted that his departure “will probably help me some. Of course it also helps Gov. Romney.”
He pointed out that his own campaign has more pledged delegates in Pennsylvania than either Romney or Santorum, who is from the state.
“We’re also working very hard in Delaware and in Rhode Island,” Gingrich added. “We’re working in upstate New York. . . . And we’re looking ahead to North Carolina, which is the state that resurrected Ronald Reagan in 1976.”
He had nothing but praise for Santorum.
“I’m very proud of the campaign that he and Karen put on. And our thoughts go out to he and his family and we wish them very, very well,” said Gingrich.