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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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BLITZER: And joining us now from Warrenville, South Carolina, the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, the Republican presidential candidate. Mr. Speaker, our new poll here in South Carolina shows this gap between you and Mitt Romney narrowing. What's going to happen? What do you expect to happen between now and Saturday?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think as more and more conservatives decide that I'm the only realistic chance to stop a Massachusetts moderate, that they'll keep coming to me, and I think as Romney's folks thinking about who could actually debate Barack Obama and win, I think he'll keep losing a little bit of ground. So, I think by Saturday, we'll be ahead and depending on how many conservatives come home, we could be ahead by a pretty comfortable margin.

BLITZER: Here's what Mitt Romney said to you today early in the day in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He compared you to Al Gore. Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Actually, you know, the speaker at the debate was talking about how he created millions of jobs when he was working with the Reagan administration. Well, he'd been in Congress two years when Ronald Reagan came to office. That'd be like saying 435 Congress and we're all responsible for those jobs. Government doesn't create jobs. It's the private sector that creates jobs.


ROMNEY: A congressmen taking responsibility or taking credit for helping create jobs is like Al Gore taking credit for the Internet.


BLITZER: All right. Not exactly a flattering comment. Go ahead and respond to Mitt Romney.

GINGRICH: Look, when I was working with Ronald Reagan in the '70s, developing supply-side economics with Jack Kemp, Art Laffer, Jude Wanniski, Larry Kudlow, Mitt Romney wasn't in favor of any of it. He said later on he was opposed to the Reagan/Bush policies.

When I was campaigning with Reagan in 1980, Mitt Romney wasn't in favor of any of it. A lot of people in the establishment called Reagan's program "voodoo economics."

In the 1980s, when I was helping pass the program in the House, where we had to get one-third of the Democrats to pass it, Mitt Romney wasn't doing anything about this. How would he know?

The fact is, in the 1980s, working with Reagan, 16 millions new jobs were created through lower taxes, less regulation, and American energy. In the 1990s, after two tax increases, one by a Democrat, one by a Republican, the economy had stalled. I became Speaker, brought out the Reagan playbook, and worked with Bill Clinton to cut taxes, cut regulations, develop American energy. There were 11 million new jobs.

When he was governor of Massachusetts, he raised taxes, passed Romneycare. Massachusetts was 47th in job creation, fourth from the bottom. So I'm not sure Governor Romney understands how government can really create jobs or how government can kill jobs.

BLITZER: Susan Molinari, who was in Congress when you were there, she supports Mitt Romney. Together, with Romney, she has got a campaign ad against you. And it starts off like this. I'll play a little clip of it.


SUSAN MOLINARI, FMR. CONGRESSWOMAN: I served with Newt Gingrich in Congress. Newt Gingrich had a leadership style that can only be described as leadership by chaos.


BLITZER: And that's just the beginning of it, "leadership by chaos."

Some of your other colleagues when you were in Congress are going after you. They support Mitt Romney.

How ugly is it going to get between now and Saturday?

GINGRICH: Well, I think given the track record, if you read what Senator John McCain said in '08, and what Governor Huckabee said, what Fred Thompson said, what Rick Santorum said two days ago, I think the Romney campaign will say anything and do anything. The fact is, that leadership style she talked about led to the first big entitlement reform, welfare. Two out of three people went to work or went to school. It led to four consecutive balanced budgets, $405 billion in debt paid off. The only time in your lifetime we had balanced budgets.

It led to the first tax cuts in 16 years, steepest capital gains tax cuts in history. Unemployment dropped to 4.2 percent.

I would say that's pretty darned good leadership style. Only the second time we actually cut domestic discretionary spending since World War II was while I was Speaker. I think that's a pretty good leadership style.

BLITZER: There's an article in the new issue of "The National Journal" by Reid Wilson entitled "Gingrich's Friends Worry He Has Gone Rogue." And I'll read a sentence from the article.

"None of his friends would agreed to be quoted by name, but they describe a candidate out for vengeance, rather than one working with a coherent strategy aimed at winning a race. 'The sense is he's just lashing out,'" said one long-time ally who was not named in that article.

I assume you've heard this kind of criticism, that this is payback from you to Romney for what his super PAC did to you in Iowa.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, the Monday night debate, as you know, we talked about big ideas, big solutions, how to reestablish work in America, how to defend Americans by defeating our opponents. And virtually everybody agrees that Monday night, I won the debate decisively. Frank Luntz said it was the only standing ovation in a presidential debate since Ronald Reagan in 1980 in New Hampshire.

Second, the Rasmussen poll that came out earlier today said I'm now virtually tied with Romney, within the margin of error, nationally. Now, that doesn't strike me as lashing out.

I have calmly and methodically drawn a difference between a Reagan conservative and a Massachusetts moderate. I think describing Governor Romney's record accurately as pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase isn't lashing out. It's telling the truth. And isn't that what campaigns are about, is to draw a contrast so people get to make a choice?


BLITZER: My interview with Newt Gingrich will continue in just a moment.

Up next, the role Sarah Palin -- yes, Sarah Palin -- could play in a Newt Gingrich administration. You're going to want to see this right after the break.


BLITZER: Here's part two of my interview with Newt Gingrich.


BLITZER: Rick Santorum is also upset that you suggested yesterday maybe he and Rick Perry should drop out. Let me play for you what Santorum said today about you.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The hubris, and I might even go far as to say the arrogance, of Speaker Gingrich to suggest that I don't have the experience to run a national campaign, to win a national campaign, having won four elections in four heavily Democratic districts and states, he ran in one of the heaviest Republican suburban districts of Georgia with diversity being nonexistent in his electoral plans, that that makes him more qualified than me?


BLITZER: Do you really want him to drop out of the race at this point?

GINGRICH: Look, what I said -- first of all, I didn't say anybody should do anything. I said it would be very, very helpful.

As I hope that every Santorum and Perry voter will decide in the end, that the only way to stop a Massachusetts moderate is to vote for Newt Gingrich. I think that's -- if you look at the polling data, that's a fact. And I think in South Carolina, being a Georgia conservative is a big advantage.

I did make the point which is an objective fact. I worked in the '80 campaign with Reagan, I worked in the '84 campaign, I worked in the '88 campaign. I helped design the '94 campaign, the "Contract With America," which got the largest one-party increase in American history, nine million additional votes. We won the House the first time in 40 years.

I helped design a 1996 campaign. We kept the House for the first time since 1928.

Those are facts. I'm sorry if Rick gets mad about them, but those are facts.

To suggest I wasn't part of the "Contract with America" campaign, that I didn't help design the '96 reelection campaign, he knows better. Look, it's got to be a frustrating time.

The fact is, I think that having big solutions, being willing to talk about creating jobs, balancing the budget, defending America, reestablishing American exceptionalism, reforming the judiciary, these are the big ideas that are helping in South Carolina. I'm going to stay focused on these big solutions, and that's what I spend most of my time talking about.

BLITZER: A lot of us noticed last night that Sarah Palin virtually endorsed you. She said if she lived in South Carolina, she would probably vote for you right now, which, in my mind, and I suspect in others, immediately raised the possibility if you were to get the nomination, would she be on your short list as a potential vice presidential running mate?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I don't want to suggest anything. We haven't talked about anything at all.

Governor Palin is somebody who I think was a very good reform governor. She was extraordinarily effective negotiating with big oil. She did a good job in the state of Alaska. I think she's a very articulate leader of the Tea Party conservative movement.

I was honored and delighted last night when she said if she were in South Carolina, she would vote for Newt Gingrich. I hope everybody who likes her decides she's right, and I hope they vote for me.

Certainly, she's one of the people I would call on for advice, I would ask her to consider taking a major role in the next administration if I'm president. But nothing has been discussed of any kind, and it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss it at this time.

I'm just delighted that she and Todd -- both have been so supportive of my candidacy, and they recognize that, you know, I am a Tea Party reform conservative. I'm not part of the Washington establishment. And I think that's the signal that her endorsement last night really sends.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, good luck. We'll stay in close touch. Thanks very much for joining us.

GINGRICH: Stay in touch. Thanks, Wolf.


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