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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript


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SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Newt Gingrich joins us from Charleston, South Carolina this morning.

Good morning, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: Good morning. It's good to be with you.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you very much.

Mr. Speaker, Mitt Romney dumped a load of negative ads on you in Iowa. You responded by opening attacks on his veracity and his business record. Some Republicans are saying you're just doing Barack Obama's work for him. Are you uncomfortable with that?

GINGRICH: Well, look, none of those folks were complaining when Mitt Romney spent $3.5 million on negative ads in Iowa because they were for Romney. Now that all of a sudden somebody is willing to stand up to him and is willing to argue the other side of the case, they think it's unfair.

Whoever we nominate has to be prepared to take on Barack Obama, and the president already has $240 million in the bank. He plans a billion dollar campaign that will overwhelmingly be negative.

And our nominee had better be capable of standing there, telling the truth, withstanding the negative ads and winning the debate this fall. Now that's frankly, I think, one of the biggest advantages I have as a good conservative, with a clear record of conservatism; I think that I could in fact draw a sharp contrast with Obama.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Speaker, you told a crowd in South Carolina the other day that if Mitt Romney is the nominee that 95 percent of the people in the room that you spoke to, you said, would be uncomfortable with that.

Do you think that he would be the weakest candidate that the Republicans could field this time out?

GINGRICH: Well, I think from the standpoint of the conservative movement going back to Goldwater and Reagan, when you have a governor who put Planned Parenthood, for example, the largest abortion provider into the country, into "Romney-care" by law with no right to life group, as somebody who raised $730 million in taxes, somebody who is for gun control, and who had a 400 percent increase in taxes on guns, I think it's pretty challenging for a candidate once you get to the real record for that candidate to arouse the enthusiasm and the excitement of the conservative movement.

Look, we're all going to do everything we can to defeat Barack Obama. A re-election of Barack Obama in this environment with this record would lead him to be so arrogant and so aggressive that it's hard to imagine what his second term would be like.

So I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we defeat Barack Obama. I just think a clear Reagan conservative has a much better chance of defeating him than somebody who comes out of a Massachusetts moderate background.

SCHIEFFER: So what you're saying is that he would be the weakest candidate?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it's very hard for him. I don't want to pick weakest or strongest. I think it's very hard for him to differentiate "Romney-care" from "Obama-care." It's very hard for him to differentiate appointing liberal judges, which he did when he was the governor of Massachusetts.

I mean, these are things that are going to come up. And I think for the conservative movement it makes it more difficult, frankly. And that's why I think here in South Carolina I'm probably going to win next Saturday because as a Georgia Reagan conservative, I fit much more comfortably with the average South Carolina Republican.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask you about something you told us when you were out in Iowa. You said flatly that Mitt Romney was a liar. And I got to thinking about that. Were you talking about what he said about you or what he has been saying about his own background and record?

GINGRICH: Well, you asked me a very direct question. And I frankly don't think we need people who equivocate. I just think when you look at the total record and you look at various things, what I just said to you about the record in Massachusetts.

You know, Governor Romney would like to run for president, referring vaguely to his record but not actually looking at it in detail. When you look at it in detail, it is surprisingly more liberal than the average South Carolinian is comfortable with.

He would like us to talk about job creation. He just dropped claiming 100,000 jobs, and The Washington Post gave him "three Pinocchios," and said, you know, there's no proof of that.

You know, I'm controversial at times. I'm very direct at times. But I really do try to be very candid and very direct, as you know, from all the shows we've done together over the years. That's just my style is to be very direct and try to level with the American people.

SCHIEFFER: Now you have called on your super PAC to take down or correct some of the ads that they've been running because there have been some inconsistencies in some things that, among other things, The Washington Post has given some Pinocchios to. They said they weren't correct.

GINGRICH: That's right.

SCHIEFFER: Why did you do is that that? And are they going to comply with your wishes?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I mean, first of all, this is all a public conversation because it's illegal to coordinate these kinds of groups. I had challenged Governor Romney to take the same position when one of his ads was so false that it got four Pinocchios in I think 30 seconds. And he didn't do it.

I would say that I'm trying to set a standard here. I don't particularly like super PACs. I would much rather have election reform so the money could go straight to the candidate and the candidate would bear responsibility.

You would clean up about 80 percent of the poison in the system if candidates had to put their name on the ads. But I've taken a public position. And my understanding is, again, this is all public reports, that Rick Tyler has indicated that he is willing to edit and fix anything that is inaccurate.

SCHIEFFER: I want to go back to the first question I asked you: Do you feel though that you are helping Barack Obama in any way? And are you uncomfortable with the Republicans who are telling you, you need to dial back a little bit?

GINGRICH: Look, you know, we're watching the playoff games. And they're tough. And some good teams are losing because they're up against slightly better teams. The Super Bowl is going to be a better Super Bowl because the last two teams are going to be really seasoned. I happen to personally prefer Green Bay. But whoever gets to those final two is going to be tough.

This is the same thing. What Republicans don't want to do is nominate somebody who collapses in September under the weight of Barack Obama. And I think it's fair to raise any question -- including about me or about any other candidate, it's fair to raise the questions now, get them out of the way now, make sure that whoever we nominate is clear enough, public enough, accountable enough that they can withstand the Obama onslaught.

Otherwise, we'll nominate somebody in a soft process and watch them collapse. I don't want to see that happen. I don't want to see us nominate somebody who can't debate Obama, who can't take the heat, who can't answer the questions because then we'll have a disaster in the fall.

SCHIEFFER: Just to wrap this up, and you're saying that Mitt Romney is the person who might collapse, who won't be able to take the heat? I mean, obviously that's what you're saying.

GINGRICH: Well, look, I'm just saying that there is clear evidence both in his governor's record, which is much more liberal than his commercials, and in his claim of 100,000 jobs, which even he is now withdrawing, that he needs to get straight with the country in order to be successful in the fall.

And I think that's what this electoral process is about, is, let's have this conversation and let's make sure that whoever the nominee is has been thoroughly vetted.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Mr. Speaker, thank you so much.

GINGRICH: Great. Good to be with you.

SCHIEFFER: And we turn now to another candidate, the former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum, who is stirring the pot a bit down in South Carolina himself.


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