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Fox News "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" - Transcript

Interview

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich -- he joins us from Illinois, the scene of the coming -- this coming Tuesday's big primary.

Nice to see you, Mr. Speaker.

NEWT GINGRICH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, your Southern strategy came up short a bit. You didn't come in first place in Alabama and Mississippi, but you came in second place. I assume as you shift to Illinois, where you are now, there must be some sort of thought on how to change your strategy.

So tell me, is your strategy in Illinois different because you got to zero in, you got to win Illinois?

GINGRICH: Well, no. I think I've got to keep moving forward and talking about big ideas, talking about things like an American energy plan that would return gasoline to under $2.50 a gallon -- it's $4.25 in Chicago today -- and talk about big solutions to issues we're faced with.

And I think that there is a place for somebody who wants to develop the right kind of approaches to create jobs, to balance the budget, to pay off the national debt and to do things that most Americans want to do.

We came in -- we came in second in both Mississippi and Alabama, very, very close, almost a tie in Mississippi. And the fact is, the so-called frontrunner, Mitt Romney, came in third in both states and got about a third or less of the delegates. So I think that this is still a wide-open nominating process. And we're going to continue to move forward and talk about big solutions.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, if you continue to come in second, you'll continue to get delegates and it will give you more power and muscle when you get to the convention, but it's not going to give you the nomination of 1,144 votes going into the convention.

GINGRICH: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: So you have to change your strategy now to start winning these states. So I mean, continuing just along the big ideas...

GINGRICH: First of all, Greta...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... is not going to have you winning.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, Greta, look, I think that we have no idea how this is going to work out. We have never seen a nominating process like this in our lifetime. I think it's very possible we're going to be at the end of all the primaries on June 26 and have nobody at 1,144.

And then we're going to have a conversation about who would be the best person to defeat Barack Obama, and equally important, who'd be the best person to solve America's problems and to move us in the right direction.

So next week in Louisiana is only half-time. We literally have half of all the delegates left to come. And I think we'll keep picking up delegates. It's a three-way race, I think, at the present time. I'm third among the three, but we're continuing to campaign, continuing to develop ideas.

And I have a hunch that just as has happened in the past, the more we watch Romney and Santorum fight, the more attractive I'll look and the more I will regain strength as people look at my solutions, rather than politics as usual.

I don't pretend to be a traditional politician. I'm somebody who wants to really have very large-scale change in Washington.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess even there's a quote tonight from the dinner, your Lincoln Day dinner, in which you said something like, We cannot win with a normal party. "A normal party" sort of caught me. What's a "normal party"? And what did you mean by that?

GINGRICH: Well, I was outlining the idea of very big ideas. It's a Lincoln Day dinner. I was pointing out that Lincoln was for the transcontinental railroad. He had always been involved in science and technology. And he's the only American president to actually have held a patent.

And I was pointing out, for example, that we have an opportunity to offer an American energy program which not only makes us independent of the Middle East and means that no American president will ever bow to a Saudi king again, it not only means we'd have $2.50 or less for a gallon of gas, it not only means we'd create millions of Americans jobs, but you could create a debt repayment fund, take the royalties over the next generation from oil and gas and actually pay off the federal debt, if you had the discipline to balance the federal budget, which, as you know, I did for four straight years.

I'm the only speaker in modern times to have balanced the federal budget. So part of what I'll be campaigning on is, let's balance the federal budget, develop American energy and pay off the national debt. All of that's technically doable now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, far be it from me to tell someone how to win a campaign. I have never run for office. But I'm sort of curious -- I sort of -- you know, I've stepped back and sort of put myself in your shoes and the other candidates, and I think, you know, How would I do it?

And going out to a state like Illinois, which has about an 8 percent Hispanic population -- I looked at the demographics of the state -- I was thinking, you know, what kind of message, how would I get my message to that population? That's traditionally a Democratic population. In '08, President Obama won 76 percent of the Hispanic vote. If you can get 8 percent Illinois, that's good.

So I'm curious. Why should Hispanics in Illinois vote for you in particular? What's your message to them?

GINGRICH: Well, it's back with the same message. If you are a typical hard-working Hispanic American and you pull into a gas station tomorrow morning in Chicago and you're paying $4.25 a gallon, a Newt Gingrich plan to get you down below $2.50 is right in your pocketbook. It's right in your family's quality of life.

It may well be in your job. If you're an independent trucker or you run a small business, these high prices are really running a risk of driving you out of business.

So I think at one level -- and we're going to have a roundtable tomorrow with Hispanic leaders here in Illinois. And part of that roundtable's going to be economics. How do we create jobs, and how do we keep taxes low, and how do we get energy costs down so they actually have the money for their family, instead of having to pay all of it for gasoline.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think a lot of Hispanics might be a little bit fearful of the Republican Party, that they're trying to, you know, keep them out of the country, some of their relatives who can't be in here legally. So you know, combined with the message that you're going to get them $2.50 a gallon of gas, is there some other message you can impart to them to persuade them that they should not vote for President Obama, but should vote for you?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that there's a general agreement among Hispanic leaders that I have made the most serious effort to find a common sense solution on immigration. I am for controlling the border. I am for English as the official language of government. But I'm also for modernizing the visa system, for a guest worker program and for finding a solution for people who've been here a long time.

So we've had this kind of conversation all over the country. It's something I'm very eager to continue. The Republican Party has to be prepared to truly become a party of all Americans and to truly reach out to Americans of all backgrounds, whether they're Asian-American or they're Hispanic-American or African-American or Native American. You cannot be a governing majority in the long run unless you try to serve and work with every group in the country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Another demographic, a group that's thought to be sewn up by the Democrats is the union vote. Is there anything that you can -- any message you want to impart to union members to sort of peel them off President Obama in terms of voting? And you know, why should they vote for you instead?

GINGRICH: Well, let's say you're a construction union and you were hoping to get those 30,000 to 50,000 jobs off of the Keystone pipeline. The president just vetoed your jobs. The construction unions were very heavily in favor of the Keystone pipeline.

But let's say you're an average union member, not a union leader but a union member. Forty-four percent of all union members tend to vote Republican. Some years, it's even higher than that. And it comes back again to pocketbook issues.

You go out and talk to the average union member -- let's say you're somebody who lives in Chicago, but you have a fishing boat, you've got a pickup truck, you like to spend the weekends going somewhere in Wisconsin to fish. You're right now paying an awful lot for gasoline to get there.

You'd like the idea of a Gingrich plan for American energy that enables you to have a better weekend and have little bit of extra money so if you wanted to, you could also buy some beer on that fishing trip.

I think it's a very practical appeal. This is an old-fashioned pocketbook appeal. But I do think that the American energy plan that we're outlining, that people can see at Newt.org, and that shows you how we would actually do it -- I think that's very appealing to most Americans. And by the way, the White House apparently thinks so, too, because they've been attacking me now for a week.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of economics and jobs, that's a very important part of this election, we're told. But also, some of the social issues. Gay American vote is thought to be more Democratic vote. Is there any way, is there any message that you can get to a gay American to convince that gay American to vote for you? Gay marriage is very important to the gay population in this country. Is there any way you're reaching out to them to get their vote to say, Well, vote for me anyway, and this is why?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think the general policies we have on national security, on taxes, on job creation -- there are a lot of areas where we can appeal to people beyond sexual orientation.

If the only issue they vote on is gay marriage, then probably they're going to feel uncomfortable because I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and I am committed to the classic Christian concept of what a marriage is.

But that question is, if that's the only issue they vote on, that's one thing. If it's one of a number of issues -- you know, again, you look around the country, this is the worst economy and unemployment since the Great Depression.

Gallup indicated that the real number for unemployed/underemployed and dropped out of work is 19 percent. We haven't seen anything like that since the Great Depression. There are a lot of folks who are going to look at other issues and say, Well, we'll argue about those next time. This time, I want somebody who's going to help create jobs.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about if you're in the inner city, and nobody's even bothered to go into these -- really, these horrible neighborhoods of 25 percent unemployment, or 30 percent, to even campaign? You know, how do you get those votes? I mean, how -- I mean, if no one's reaching out to the people in those communities and actually actively campaigning, you know, how can you get that voter? How can you convince those people that, you know, you're going to change their lives?

GINGRICH: I think I was the first Republican candidate to campaign in an African-American church in Columbia, South Carolina. I'm very eagerly talking with a number of African-American leaders, and I'm convinced that when you have 43 percent black teenage unemployment, there are a lot of church leaders or a lot of neighborhoods, there are a lot of folks who want to work with you.

You talk to African-American congressmen like Tim Scott, Allen West, they'll tell you that they believe there's a real opportunity for Republicans to reach out. Herman Cain is a very strong supporter of mine. I've worked for years with Michael Steele. J.C. Watts is a very strong supporter of mine.

I think you can make a case I've had a more methodical effort to include African-Americans in my campaign than any other Republican has. And I think that's a part of this that I'm very proud of.

Kiron Skinner, for example, professor at Carnegie-Mellon, leading African-American intellectual, is very actively for my campaign. Thomas Sowell has actually written two columns now endorsing me. So I do think there are a number of people that give us a much broader reach than some of the other candidates.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I know that your time is limited. Every candidate's time is limited. But I have yet to -- I've been sort of monitoring this. I haven't seen one Republican candidate and I have not seen President Obama go into these inner cities in the last two years and talk to these people in the inner cities whose unemployment rate is so dreadfully high and have that conversation. And they're just -- they're not going to the town hall meetings. They're not watching cable news. And they really are sort of excluded from the process.

GINGRICH: Why don't you come with me and let's do that? You know, when I was speaker of the House, we had town hall meetings in Washington, D.C. I think I'm the only speaker to go and have town hall meetings in Washington, in local schools, inviting local neighborhoods to come and talk. It worked very well. You can ask Donna Brazile, who was part of it. It was very effective program. And I think people felt that there were things we did that helped to improve the economy of the District of Columbia that had a genuine direct effect on people's lives.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Time magazine reporting tonight that Representative Ron Paul's campaign has, quote, "sent discrete signals to camp Romney that the key to Paul's shot can be had for the right price."

Any thoughts on that quote from Time magazine?

(LAUGHTER)

GINGRICH: I have no idea! But the way you just read it, it strikes me as probably true. I mean, I don't know what "right price" means, whether that's a policy question or a personnel question, or you know, having him over for lunch some Sunday. I mean, who knows.

But conceivably -- Congressman Paul's indicated a pretty good bit of reasonableness this year. Maybe he has decided that he wants to help make Romney inevitable. Certainly, Ron Paul's endorsement would be a huge boost to Governor Romney. It'll be interesting to see exactly what Governor Romney agreed to get that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you notice I didn't ask the question of whether you're going to get out. I've heard your answer, so I'm not going to bore you to death and...

GINGRICH: I'm proud of you.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... ask that question. But I am curious...

GINGRICH: I was very proud of you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, I know. This conversation that you say that's going to happen sometime in June -- explain -- what is -- I mean, who's going to be there at this conversation? And how is it going to unfold?

GINGRICH: Look, I think the American people will be. The key question is simple. Can Romney actually win the nomination on his own by the end of the primaries, Or does he fall short? If he falls 30, 40, 50 votes short, he'll get the nomination.

But if he's 150 or 200 votes short, I think it's very possible you're going to have a wide-open convention. That would start literally a consideration in late June. There's 60 days before the convention actually occurs. I think it would be the first electronic conversation we've ever had, and you really would have a people's convention in many ways, with an amazing amount of interest, an amazing amount of involvement.

So we don't know yet. I mean, I think the odds are probably even money. Certainly, it looks like Governor Romney is having a much harder time locking down the nomination than they thought they would. And I think that we'll have to wait and see how it evolves.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you're in Illinois. Do you intend to dispatch your wife to Wisconsin, her home state, to -- because that's a very competitive and a very important state. Is she going to lead the campaign for you there?

GINGRICH: Greta, you know Callista very well. The idea that I would dispatch her anywhere is hopeless. I am going to ask her if she'd be willing to go and campaign in her home state, and I think she's probably going to. And I think she'll be very effective. And I have a son-in-law, Paul Lubbers, who's from Sheboygan, and I'm going to ask him. But I'm not able to dispatch either of them because I lack dispatching power.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, here's a tip. No one wins the Wisconsin primary without wearing a cheesehead. So good luck!

GINGRICH: Good luck getting that on Callista. You know, I might wear one. There's no hope that she will.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir.

GINGRICH: Come to Wisconsin with us.

VAN SUSTEREN: I might.

GINGRICH: Take care.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.


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