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Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript

Interview

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The Republican candidates have been campaigning nonstop with two upcoming primaries in Michigan and Arizona. And then a week later, 10 contests on Super Tuesday. Newt Gingrich has been up and down twice already. Can he come back a third time?

Mr. Speaker, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

NEWT GINGRICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to be back.
WALLACE: Let's start with the rollercoaster that is the Gingrich campaign. Just three weeks ago, after your win in South Carolina, you were leading -- just three weeks ago -- leading the Real Clear Politics average of national polls at 31 percent. Now, you're a distant third all the way back at 14.5 percent.

I would like you to put on your political analyst hat that you used to wear here at FOX News. What happened?

GINGRICH: Twenty million dollars of Mitt Romney negative ads. I mean, it's not complicated. Look at Florida, outspent five to one. Many of the ads factually false, as the Wall Street Journal and National Review and others have reported. Now, you got to work your way back up again.

As you pointed out, I've twice been the front runner -- both times over big ideas, developing positive solutions. The first time I was ahead 15 to 21 points in the national polls, we hadn't bought a single ad yet. So, we're back doing what I think I do best, which is focusing on things like on energy policy, $2.50 a gallon gasoline, big breakthrough ideas, and we'll see what happens over the next three or four weeks.

WALLACE: we'll get to the policy in a moment. Last month, you urged Rick Santorum to drop out so that you could have a one-on-one race against Mitt Romney.

Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: The longer the conservatives are split, the more likely it is that we end up with the nominee who I think is a moderate and very, very hard time beating President Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: If you feel it is so important for the Republicans to put up a true conservative to run against Barack Obama, by that same reasoning, why shouldn't you drop out and give a clear path to Rick Santorum?

GINGRICH: Well, I think you should have played Rick's answer which I now agree with.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: Which is what? No?

GINGRICH: Which was no. And, look what happened to Rick in the last three weeks. You know, I have been through Tim Pawlenty, then Michele Bachmann, and then Herman Cain one, and then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain the second time, and now we have Santorum.

And we're just going to keep moving forward gathering delegates. We're looking forward very much to Super Tuesday. We had a great weekend with Herman Cain endorsing, campaigning in Georgia. We'll be back campaigning. It will be in Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington, Idaho and California this week.

And carrying out -- the biggest difference between me and Santorum, who in many ways were the conservative wing of the race, is the scale of the ideas, the boldness of the ideas. I'm much more prepared to talk about fundamental change, whether it's a personal Social Security savings accounts for young Americans, or it is zero capitol gains tax, or it is the kind of energy policy that leads back to $2.50 a gallon gasoline.

And I think in that sense, I'm much prepared to break out of the Washington establishment model.

WALLACE: So, what's your play now? You go back after Santorum to try to win back the evangelicals and the Tea Partiers. Or do you go after Romney, thinking if you can drive him out of the race that you can take on Santorum later?

GINGRICH: I don't -- well, in my model, the one that got me be the frontrunner twice, frankly, is to talk positively to all Americans and to try to suggest that having somebody, you know, there are set of numbers. Herman Cain was teaching me to use numbers yesterday. So --

WALLACE: Nine-nine-nine?

GINGRICH: That was his number. But his point is -- $1.13 was the amount we paid for a gallon of gas when I was speaker, 4.2 unemployment rate when I left the speakership. Four was the number of years you balanced the federal budget the only time in your lifetime. Two out of three was the number of people who went to work or went to school under welfare reform.

You take that scale of change and you apply it to today, then my goal is to say to the American people -- this is the level of leadership that you need. I'm only person in the race who's actually done things on this scale. And I think for us to get back on the right track is a very heavy lift. And it's more than just beating Obama, it's also changing the Congress, changing the laws, and some very fundamental ways we think we need doing.

WALLACE: You were listing to some of the states. And obviously, you know, it's not only big ideas. It's also political strategy. What does it mean to Mitt Romney if he were to lose his home state and an important swing state of Michigan?

GINGRICH: Well, I'd be curious what their rationales would be. Here' the guy who's been running for six years, put in $40 million of his own money last time, has outspent all the rest of us I think by three or four to one in terms of his campaign and probably by 10 or 15 to one in terms of his super PAC. And if he can't carry his own -- he has gotten majority anywhere, except that very tiny majority in Nevada.

If he can't carry his home state, I think the rationale for why is there a Romney candidacy. He's not a candidate of ideas. He's not a candidate of ideologies. He was the candidate because he was the inevitable winner.

Now, there's no place yet -- you know, in Maine for example, he's basically tied with Ron Paul. In Iowa, it turned out after the recount, he was tied with Santorum, with Santorum slightly ahead. And even in Florida where he spent $20 million, he couldn't get to 50 percent.

WALLACE: So, you kind of interrupted yourself, you were saying, if he loses --

GINGRICH: If -- my only point is, there's a whole rational, which is now built on his ability to win -- and he hasn't been able to win -- if he loses his home state and I assume they're going to throw the kitchen sink at Santorum because that's the Romney style. If they don't lose his home state, I don't know see what he says the next morning to his donors to stay in the race.

WALLACE: Are you saying that he'd be fatally damaged?

GINGRICH: I think he's already damaged by the negativity of his campaign and the fact that he keeps driving down turnout. I mean, the studies indicate clearly, when I did well, turn out went up, including north Florida. When he's done well, turnout was gone down.

And I think for the general election, that's not a very good sign.

WALLACE: By that same reasoning, the next week, Super Tuesday, Georgia, your home state -- you have to win Georgia.

GINGRICH: I think you'd have a very -- if any of the three loses our home state, if Santorum loses Pennsylvania, Romney loses Michigan, or I lose Georgia, you have I think a very, very badly weakened candidacies. I was home campaigning for the last two days precisely to say to all of my friends back home, Georgia really matters. You cannot take this for granted.

WALLACE: Are you willing to say that if you lose Georgia, you'll drop out?

GINGRICH: No, given the chaos of this race, I wouldn't say anything, but it's -- but I'm certainly willing to say I think it's extraordinarily important to carry your home state. And also has an underlying impact if you don't.

WALLACE: You know, you talk about the chaos of the race. Some top Republicans are now saying if -- and we got to make it clear -- if Romney loses his home state, that they believe that they are going to have to pull a new candidate into this race. They've even talked about the possibility of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. How would you feel about a late entry in March getting into this race?

GINGRICH: Well, it's happened before in -- I remember, in 1964, the establishment got terrified of Goldwater, they recruited Bill Scranton, the governor of Pennsylvania, at the last minute. Jeb Bush is a great guy. He would be a terrific candidate.

And there are a lot of good candidates. I mean, you have to look around, and they are competent people in the Republican Party -- sure. Can they get on the ballot in those states?

WALLACE: Well, they could get in a ballot in California, New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota --

GINGRICH: Well, I think Tennessee -- I mean, Texas is going to be postponed.

WALLACE: Right.

GINGRICH: I have no problem with anybody on who runs. This is where I do agree with what Santorum said in response to my comment. And temper myself since because I think he's right. Anybody who feels that they want to come and qualify, come play.

But as you and I were talking about before the show, this is really hard. There's no gimme here. Nobody is going to show up and become Superman or Superwoman.

So, they just have to understand -- they are entering into the arena and it is a very challenge, very hard working arena.

WALLACE: Let's talk about policies and let's start with taxes. You proposed an optional 15 percent flat tax, with continuing deduction for mortgage interest and charity contributions. You would eliminate taxes on estates, capital gains, dividends and cut the corporate tax to 12.5 percent.

Here's the problem: tax experts say that would reduce federal revenue by a third, almost $1.3 trillion in 2015.

Question -- don't you, with your tax plan, blow a hole in the deficit?

GINGRICH: Well, I tell people, it's not revenue neutral because, in fact, it's a tax cut. And you got to decide what you're doing.

Second, I don't -- and I want to say up front, I'm the only person you interviewed who directly was involved in balancing the budget four times except for Bill Clinton. So, I think I can say this with some authority.

WALLACE: I haven't interviewed Bill Clinton in a while.

GINGRICH: Not in a while. That was a great interview.

But I'm just saying, the two of us negotiated this and we have four conservative years of a balanced budget, the only time in your lifetime.

The number one goal has to be to create dramatic economic growth. You get back to 4 percent unemployment, you shrink that estimate. Number two thing, which nobody counts, I have a program to unleash American oil and gas to produce -- and the estimate by the guy who developed North Dakota is there are $16 trillion to $18 trillion dollars in potential royalties to the federal government over the next generation if you, in fact, open up federal land and offshore.

So, you start adding in what we'd get out of becoming -- my goal is to be so independent in energy production that no American president ever again bows to a Saudi king. Now, if you have that level of American production, $500 billion a year or more in domestic energy production, the royalties that pays is a substantial part of plugging that hole.

WALLACE: OK. And let's -- you bring me right to what I wanted to talk about. You are pushing this idea of drill here, drill now, and you are talking about returning to $2.50 a gallon gasoline.

GINGRICH: Right.

WALLACE: Again, the experts say, OPEC, if you were to do that, and it would unleash all those domestic production, they would cut production to keep international prices up. It is always the possibility of an oil spike, upheaval in the Middle East. They say, even if it's the right thing to do, drill here, drill now, you can't guarantee $2.50 a gallon.

GINGRICH: You can't guarantee anything. But you guarantee under the Obama plan, there's going to be less American production, higher prices. We already have highest price on average in history.

This president is anti-American energy. He's consistently opposed to -- his U.S. attorney in North Dakota file would a lawsuit over eight migratory birds? That's how much they are opposed to the oil industry? I mean, the nuttiness these guys are engaged in.

So, what I can guarantee you is the Obama program is higher prices, more dependency in the Middle East, more vulnerability to Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Iran -- exactly the wrong direction. Now, can we get to $2.50? Can we get to $2? It was $1.13 when I was speaker. It was $1.89 when Obama was sworn in.

I mean, $2.50 is not some inconceivable number, except in the Washington establishment, which also explains to you why whatever you want to do that's good for the American people can't be done.

WALLACE: All right. You used to do this for a living, used to play an analyst on TV. You have two minutes.

GINGRICH: There we go.

WALLACE: I got two questions.

Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife had contributed $11 million so far to the super PAC that supports you. He's reportedly now prepared to contribute another $10 million to your campaign. Is he keeping Newt Gingrich afloat?

GINGRICH: Well, he's certainly helping to balance off Romney's 16 millionaires. He's helping balance off Romney's Wall Street money. But the reason is very straightforward -- Sheldon Adelson is desperately worried about an Iranian nuclear weapon and he is desperately worried about the survival of Israel. And I am the strongest candidate on foreign policy and the strongest candidate in national security.

It's a very open relationship and something I'm very happy to say I think we should be worried about the Iranian nuclear weapon. I think we should do everything we can to insure that Israel survives.

WALLACE: Finally, your wife Callista is taking a more public role. You can see her here now. I mean, she's speaking out at various appearances, talking among other things about your golf game and the fact that she says that you get in and out of golf traps -- sand traps more often that anybody she's ever known, which may be a political metaphor. According to --

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: According to one report, the campaign hopes that she will soften your image. True?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that's true. I think also that she's very attractive and she's very smart and she's affective. She has a speech in American exceptionalism that's remarkable speech and she's enjoying it. I think she -- it took her a while to get in the rhythm of being out there on her own, but she's really having a good time. She had a great talk yesterday in Atlanta and I'm very proud of her.

WALLACE: How is your golf game?

GINGRICH: Really bad.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: With this campaign getting worse, right?

GINGRICH: Exactly right.

WALLACE: Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker, for coming in.

GINGRICH: Great to see you.

WALLACE: Always a pleasure to talk with you. We'll see you on the campaign trail, sir.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

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