Should Newt Gingrich turn in a strong showing in the South Carolina primary Saturday and his rivals for the conservative vote drop out of the GOP presidential race, the former House speaker feels confident he can draw a sharp contrast with front-runner Mitt Romney and win their party’s nomination for President this year.
“I have a game plan to win after South Carolina,” said Gingrich, who spoke to HUMAN EVENTS Wednesday morning between campaign stops in the Palmetto State. While freely admitting he is “totally focused on winning South Carolina,” Gingrich echoed the view of Florida campaign chairman Bill McCollum that he can defeat Romney in that state’s primary January 31st.
“And then, we will be competing in the Republican caucuses [to choose national convention delegates] in Colorado and Minnesota February 7 and then the caucuses in Washington State [March 3] and then we’re into ‘Super Tuesday,’ he told us, referring to the voting March 6 in which caucuses and primaries in a dozen states will choose their delegates.
“The one significant mistake we made in the campaign so far was failing to get on the ballot in Virginia [March 6],” Gingrich conceded, but he quickly added that “we learned from that mistake and we just have to work harder in the other Super Tuesday states to make up for this. (He did not mention that he also failed to qualify for the primary ballot in Missouri February 7, but Gingrich backers pointed out to us that the Show Me State primary is a non-binding “beauty contest” and that actual delegates are chosen at a state convention later in the year in which they insist their man will be competitive).
Gingrich’s “game plan” depends on conservative opponents such as Rick Perry and Rick Santorum leaving the race soon and letting him face Romney, whom he dismissed as a “confused Massachusetts moderate.” Referring to a recent appearance by Karl Rove on Fox Television, Gingrich recalled how the former Bush White House counselor concluded that Romney could not win if there was a “consensus conservative vote coming to South Carolina.” Gingrich himself believes “if there was a unified conservative vote in South Carolina, I would defeat Romney by at least 60-40.”
The ever-confident candidate expects that if Santorum and/or Perry dropped out of the race, their supporters on the right would flock to his banner without hesitation.
“There are a number of people in Texas who would donate to me the minute Perry is out” he said. When we pressed for names, he declined, saying “I’m just totally focused on South Carolina.”
Like his South Carolina chairman and onetime U.S. House colleague John Napier, Gingrich believes “we have a real chance to win here Saturday” but he would be satisfied with a “strong place showing.” After such results, the former speaker believes that there would be strong pressure for Santorum and Perry to leave the race and for him to get the desired “one-on-one” with Romney scenario needed for his game plan to work.
In the coming days and weeks, Gingrich told us, he plans to hammer Romney on three key points: contrasting his own “bold” plan for a 15% flat tax (“for all taxpayers and not just those who make $200,000 or more”) with what he called Romney’s “timid” tax reform plan; his call for a Chilean-style personal account plan for Social Security (“Romney’s belittling it in our last debate reminded me of George Bush denouncing Reagan’s tax plan as ‘voodoo economics’ in 1980”), and his “bold” national security policy, which includes strong defense of Israel (“Romney would be a more cautious, establishment type on national security.”).
Does Gingrich feel he is in the same spot as Ronald Reagan in 1976, who lost a string of primaries before defeating Gerald Ford in North Carolina in April and then went on to nearly win the nomination? He replied that there are two major differences: “First, there was no divided field among conservatives and he got to go one-on-one with [Ford] and second, he didn’t have to face Romney’s big money machine, with all of its Wall Street donations. It’s small by Obama standards, but huge by Republican standards.”