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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. And welcome to FACE THE NATION. As you probably heard by now, Mitt Romney did win big in Nevada yesterday. Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum trailing. As we've done for weeks now, we invited Governor Romney to be with us, but his campaign declined so we say hello again to Newt Gingrich. Mister Speaker, I feel inclined to give you equal twang. Would you like to sing something, a brief tune for us?

NEWT GINGRICH: No, I-- I-- I couldn't decide which of those two things was your funny introduction. I think-- you know, Clint-- Clint Eastwood once said a man should know his limitations. I-- I'm not singing. Callista is the singer in our family. I'm the listener.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, what do you see now, Mister Speaker, as your path to the nomination? There-- you know, there are no debates for the-- almost till the end of the month here. That's how it has been a place where you've managed to hang in here. How-- how do you do it now if you are indeed going to stay in?

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I think you focus on very big differences. You just had one a minute ago. Governor Romney's description that he doesn't worry about the poor because they have a safety net. I think conservatives in fact do worry about helping every American pursue happiness. And conservatives recognize that the safety net also often becomes a spider web that keeps people trapped at the bottom. What we want to build is a trampoline to help them rise into, you know, prosperous middle-class status. So, what we're going to do over the month of February is lay out very big choices. I have a very bold tax plan. The Wall Street Journal said it was the most aggressive job-creation program.

They described Governor Romney as so timid. It could have been Obama's. I-- I have a very bold Social Security plan for young people to allow them to have a personal Social Security savings account. The governor is very timid. We have a very bold program for developing new approaches to block granting welfare back to the states. The governor is basically very timid. My goal will be over in the course of February to show that there is a way to change Washington. There's a way to get us back in the right track. It's different from Obama and it's different from Romney. And I hope by the time we get to Super Tuesday, they'll have made the case that a genuine conservative is a dramatically better choice to defeat Barack Obama than somebody who is in many ways frankly not very distinguishable from President Obama.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, uh, I take your point, but, you know, there are no debates scheduled. How are you going to get your message out because everybody knows you don't have an organization like he does and you don't have the money that he has.

NEWT GINGRICH: No, but what we do have is a lot of people, we have a lot of popular support. At newt.org, we now have a hundred and sixty thousand donors. We have thousands more signing up every week. Ninety-seven percent of them by the way are under two hundred and fifty dollars. So we have a-- a pretty big grass-roots movement in every single state. And when-- when you look at, for example, the last two, the-- the primary in South Carolina and the primary in Florida, an interesting side effect. In Florida, every county that I carried-- and I carried most of the northern counties in the state-- every county that I carried had an increase in turnout over last time. Every county that Governor Romney carried had a decrease in turnout over last time. In South Carolina, we set the record. We had a one-third increase in turnout and so my job all the way to Super Tuesday and then beyond to Texas, and my goal is with Governor Perry's help and others to have basically be about tied in delegates around the time we come out of Texas. My job is to communicate that, in fact, there is a very big choice to do that on television with you, to do it on Talk Radio, to do it through the internet, to do with paid media. We had a very good series of fund-raising meetings and calls over-- over the last couple of days. There's-- there's a large number of people who, when they look at Governor Romney's background, they look at how similar Romney-care and Obamacare are, they look at his job creation record which was the third worst in the country. Forty-eight thousand manufacturing jobs lost while he was governor, combination of tax increases and Romney-care driving jobs out of the state. They-- they look at values. He was pro-abortion, pro-gun control. I think there are a lot of people coming to me and saying, we need one conservative candidate as an alternative and they're prepared to help raise money to be that candidate.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this. You said something back in Iowa to Norah O'Donnell and to myself that really stuck with us. We asked you, are you saying flatly that Mitt Romney is a liar? And you said yes. And then I said, well, having said that, if he does get the nomination, could you support him? And you said yes. Well, things have gotten a lot-- even a lot nastier than it was out there. Since then do you think that if he does get the nomination, are you prepared to say you could still support him?

NEWT GINGRICH: Look, I believe that President Obama is such a direct threat to the future of this country that I will support the Republican nominee because I think that re-election of President Obama is a disaster. Just take the one example in the last ten days. Of the war against the Catholic Church which the Obama administration has launched which is the most outrageous assault on religious liberty in American history. This is an administration which consistently, again and again, now they're negotiating with the Taliban. They're-- they're steadily incrementally accommodating radical Islamism. Every time you turn around, the Obama administration, which has a plan by the way at the Environmental Protection Agency to add twenty-five cents a gallon to every gall-- gallon of gasoline at a time when it's already the highest price in history. So I will tell you, I think President Obama is so unacceptable that I will support the Republican nominee. That doesn't mean that I approve of Governor Romney's approach. But-- but I would-- but compared to President Obama, I think there would be no choice.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you just one question about something that's not directly about the campaign. This situation in Syria has really taken a turn for the worse, President Obama is saying Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes now and that he must step aside. Is there anything we can do beyond that or should we?

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I think there are a lot of things we could do covertly in terms of supplying weapons, supplying-- having helping people in the region supply advisors. I think we-- we should make clear to the world that Assad is going to be-- is going to go. And I think you can put together a coalition to get rid of him. I don't think you need to use American troops. But you do need to communicate that those who are opposed to Assad will get the kind of support they need in order to-- to defeat him.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mister Gingrich, thank you very much for stopping by. We hope to see you again before all this is over. Appreciate you coming by this morning.

NEWT GINGRICH: Good-- good talking to you, Bob.

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