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ABC This Week-Transcript

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, "This Week," with ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone. Just last week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he felt a responsibility to run for president and his supporters were all set to launch a $30 million fundraising drive tomorrow to make it possible. But late yesterday, Gingrich announced that 2008 would not be his year, and he joins us this morning. Welcome back to "This Week."

MR. GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Any second thoughts overnight?

MR. GINGRICH: No, other than the McCain-Feingold Act criminalizes politics.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What does that mean?

MR. GINGRICH: We learned yesterday morning -- this was the decisive moment. I'd taken leave from Fox. Randy Evans had taken leave from his law firm. We had a website set up to launch on Monday, and we were informed yesterday morning that if I had any communication with American Solutions after I became a candidate, it was a criminal offense.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Explain what American Solutions is and why that would be illegal.

MR. GINGRICH: Okay. American Solutions is technically a 527, which is a form of fundraising, which allows us to develop ideas. We've said publicly that any polling data we release we're releasing to both parties. We launched a workshop Thursday night, and all day Saturday we had 35 different workshops being broadcast to over 2,000 locations. It's an effort to reach out on a bipartisan basis. Elaine Kamarck, who you know well, who ran Vice President Gore's "Reinventing Government" did a workshop for us. Governor Roemer, who heads up Ed in '08, former Democratic governor of Colorado did a workshop. So it's really a serious effort to say, can we begin a national conversation among all people focused on solutions, and I'm very proud of it and we've had about a year of work going into it, and I thought there was a way that you could continue the momentum of those ideas while I began to prepare a presidential campaign. And what we learned yesterday morning was it is literally a go to jail criminal activity.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How much did feasibility factor in here? The money wasn't there -- not at all?

MR. GINGRICH: None. No. We had -- without having set the website up, Randy's estimate was we had several million dollars in pledges. I think we would clearly have been competitive financially within three weeks, and we literally had not even set up the website yet, but what his me was it would have been an underdog campaign. Clearly, if you're going to come from behind, I think if it would have been a real campaign, I think we would have had a chance to win, but to give up and kill an organization we spent a year on and that had 2,000 sites around the country where people had now invested their time and effort just to look at whether or not you could run I thought would be irresponsible.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How about looking beyond the primary race and the general election? How much are you worried that this year, 2008, is shaping up to be another 1964 for the Republican Party?

MR. GINGRICH: Nineteen sixty-four? You sort of stopped me. That was the massively one-sided --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That only happens rarely, so I consider that a victory. (Laughs.)

MR. GINGRICH: Okay. Look, I think it's conceivable if you nominate the wrong person, you could end up in a '64. I think it's more likely you end up in a 1976.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Which means?

MR. GINGRICH: That Senator Clinton comes out of the Democratic convention ahead, that the Republicans nominate somebody and that they close the gap every day until the election but don't quite win. Because I think Senator Clinton in the end is such a polarizing figure that while I think she's the most likely winner, I don't think she's likely to be a landslide winner under the circumstances.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You were saying just before you went on the air that you thought she had an 80-percent chance of being president.

MR. GINGRICH: I've said that publicly. I believe she is very professional, I think the Clinton machine is the most powerful political machine in modern America. I think her husband is the smartest politician in our generation. That's a formidable gathering. I also think the Republicans have got to get out from under Washington, and if we nominate somebody who is a continuation of where we are right now, we're going to lose.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What does that -- let's drill down on that a little bit. One of the things you haven't seen yet with the possible exception recently of Mike Huckabee taking the president on on the issue of foreign policy and national security, are any of the major Republican candidates breaking with President Bush?

MR. GINGRICH: There's been -- in all fairness, there's been a little bit of talk by Giuliani comparing Sarkozy and what he did in France and the way in which he was in Chirac's government but called for a clean break, and there has been a commercial I think in New Hampshire now by Romney in which he says we've got to clean these things up and he's very specific about Katrina and other kind of problems that are clear. But I agree with you. I think one of the challenges Republicans are going to have this year is that everything -- it's a little bit like skiing. Everything -- you lean into the turns, you do things that biologically don't feel right, but it's the only way you can stay up. Similarly right now, Republicans have to find a way to represent a future that is different than President Bush's administration without getting involved in a fight with President Bush because it's a very delicate balance.

But I don't think this country clearly knows the border isn't controlled. They clearly know that Katrina was a disaster and New Orleans is still a mess. They clearly know that the bureaucracies just don't work. You go down this list -- but this is also the challenge the Democrats have. At a time when the country has less respect for government than anytime since Watergate, the Democrats continue to pile up more big government proposals, and there's a challenge for them that one morning the country may wake up and say, wait a second. if you've got $4 billion a year in fraud and Medicaid in New York alone, why are we going to have bigger government? And I think there's a dual challenge here. The Democrats have the advantage. It's harder for the Republicans to pull it off, but both of them I think have a challenge.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Which of the Republican candidates right now do you think comes closest to advocating the kind of ideas you want to lay out and has the best chance of winning?

MR. GINGRICH: I think both Giuliani and Romney are beginning to articulate really dramatic change. I think that Thompson has not yet -- I think Huckabee is very attractive and if Huckabee can find money, he will be dramatically competitive almost overnight. He's probably the best performer in terms of giving speeches and being appealing as a person.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And President Clinton said the same thing Friday.

MR. GINGRICH: Yes. There's something about him that you just have to like Mike. He's a nice man and he has a personal story that --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Can he win?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, he's got to get money. If he gets money, he becomes instantly competitive I think.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: President Clinton also said that he thinks Senator Clinton is going to have a harder time winning the primaries than the general. Do you agree with that?

MR. GINGRICH: No. I don't -- he doesn't believe that either. It's a nice try. She's ahead now by some 25 points and the gap is getting wider in New Hampshire. She's ahead nationally. They have -- I believe -- you can decide whether you want to comment on this -- I believe they have an amazing ability to shrink their opponent the precise amount needed. As long as Senator Obama is 20 points away, they're not going to hurt him. If Senator Obama were three points away, he would shrink overnight.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think he can get closer by taking her on more directly?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, if anybody is going to win the nomination, somebody had better take her on, but I don't know how they take her on without going to the left, and if they go to the left, they position her as a centrist.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But then if she has the best chance of getting the nomination -- you're not running now, but how do you recommend that the Republican nominee takes on Senator Clinton?

MR. GINGRICH: I think it's very simple. The left is fundamentally wrong from the standpoint of most Americans on issue after issue. Let me give an example. A substantial plurality of Americans would abolish the capital gains tax. The Democrats would raise it. A substantial majority of Americans, like 70 percent, would actually provide a tax break for corporations that kept their corporate headquarters in the U.S. The Democrats couldn't think of something like that. You go down a list of these things. Ninety-one percent of the American people want to keep the Pledge of Allegiance saying "one nation under God," and are actually very deeply offended by the current court system's attitudes. And so you go through all these things -- if a Republican candidate slows the election down, does what Reagan did the Carter in '80 -- slows the election down, finds the three to five things -- English is the official language of government is an 85-percent issue. Senator Clinton's opposed to it. Don't get into this 2004 Swift Boat veterans, I want to see --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So not a personal case; an ideological case.

MR. GINGRICH: I think trying to beat Clinton personally is just insane. Everybody in America who's ever going to vote against Senator Clinton knows everything that anyone's going to tell them, and everybody in America who's going to vote for her knows everything you can possibly tell them. This is over. Now, the question is, let's take her as a very solid professional, a competent person and say, do we want to go -- does America want to go where she would take America? And I think a candidate who can calmly and cheerfully and pleasantly draw that contrast, say, a terrific person, works hard, she's just wrong.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: One final question. Now, you see President Bush is getting prepared to veto this S-CHIP legislation this week, the expansion of children's health care. Do you think that's, A, a smart veto, and, B, the right veto?

MR. GINGRICH: I think it is the right veto because I think the idea of taxing the average American to subsidize health care for families that earn $80,000 or more a year it's just a step toward socialized medicine.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Grassley says that's not the case, as you know.

MR. GINGRICH: Yes, I know. But I'm just citing the HHS studies. I also think at a time when you have $2 billion a year of fraud in three counties in south Florida in a federal government health program, the idea of expanding bureaucracies that don't work makes no sense. But the challenge of this administration is that it is unable to articulate any consistent message of any kind and that's why I think he will sustain the veto, I think tactically the Democrats will win a half point. But if the Republicans decide to just have a mantra that says, more bureaucracy, more red tape, higher taxes, if that's what you want, you really should vote Democrat next year. I think that all sorts can be subsumed into that simple choice.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

MR. GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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