MDJ: What have been the primary roadblocks preventing you from winning since South Carolina and how do you plan to overcome them?
Newt Gingrich: The biggest roadblock was that we were outspent five to one in Florida with a campaign that people said was 99 percent negative, and being outspent five to one is a really uphill fight. Even so, we carried all of north Florida and he carried South Florida, and I felt very good about it because the counties that we carried actually increased their turnout where the counties that Romney carried decreased their turnout, so I felt that our message was positive and was beginning to get through. As you heard today, focusing on $2.50 a gallon gasoline, focusing on four percent unemployment, on balancing the budget, on creating jobs, I think gets us back into messages that are so powerful and so positive that it will erase most of his negative advertising.
MDJ: How much have you raised in recent days?
Gingrich: We’ve raised enough to sustain the campaign in about 30 or 40 states, so we’re doing pretty well. I don’t know the exact numbers. We had a very good swing in California, and we had a goal of raising $2 million in California altogether since the campaign started. We broke that number this week and had very good pledges, and we had two pretty good fundraisers here last night and today and we have more stuff in Oklahoma on Monday.
MDJ: How long can you stay in the race?
Gingrich: Until Tampa. We have 167,000 donors. We can financially stay in. The key is I think it’s vital to win Georgia.
MDJ: Is that the deal breaker?
Gingrich: I think winning Georgia is really, really important.
MDJ: The Atlanta press say you hedged on the question of whether you can win Georgia. Can you or can’t you win the Peach State?
Gingrich: What I said was Michigan is in play for Romney. Pennsylvania is in play for Santorum and just look at the year. Anybody who doesn’t think everything is up in the air is foolish. That’s all I said. I think I’m clearly ahead in Georgia. We have a much bigger organization than anybody else. My guess is that we’ll win Georgia, but we’re going to campaign here every single day as though we’re behind, and we’re going to do everything we can to motivate people to turn out.
MDJ: Georgia Republican Party Chair Sue Everhart and a lot of us were disappointed that the Atlanta CNN debate was canceled. Did Gov. Romney not want to debate you?
Gingrich: You’ll have to ask them. All I said to audiences is somebody who is afraid to debate me probably can’t debate Barack Obama, and I think that just says it all. I think Romney tries to hide behind millions of dollars of Wall Street money buying attack ads, and I think he’s very uncomfortable debating, and he’s very uncomfortable any place where he had to face the truth without being able to hide behind his advertising.
MDJ: Will it hurt you that you didn’t get to do the Georgia debate?
Gingrich: Well, I don’t know yet. I think we may come up with something fairly clever to, you know, maybe have a big rally and have two empty podiums.
MDJ: What is the topic of your Cobb Chamber March 1 speech?
Gingrich: $2.50 a cent gasoline. Four percent unemployment.
MDJ: Conservative Georgia lawmakers are pushing for a constitutional amendment to give the state more power in creating charter schools, a push the public school lobby is opposing. Thoughts?
Gingrich: I think charter schools are very helpful because they increase the ability of parents to have leverage and to create competition, and I think competition is good for America.
MDJ: An east Cobb Republican hairstylist told me her problem with Romney is that he doesn’t connect with ‘the little people,’ the non-millionaires. She referenced his comment about being unconcerned about the poor. Thoughts?
Gingrich: Or he likes firing people. You go down a list. Look, I think he is a classic moderate establishment millionaire. We nominated a moderate in ‘96. He lost badly. We nominated a moderate in 2008. He lost badly. Why would you think you could nominate somebody who when he was governor he was pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase. Romneycare and the tax increases killed jobs, 48,000 manufacturing jobs left in Mass. and he ended up third from the bottom as a job creator as governor.
MDJ: What’s with Bill Buckley’s “National Review” telling you to get out of the race?
Gingrich: “National Review” is not the “National Review” of Buckley’s era. It’s a group of Washington establishment insiders and the fact is the Washington establishment deeply dislikes me.
Gingrich: Because I change things. When Republican presidents were for tax increases I fought them. When Democratic presidents were for tax increases I fought them. The Washington establishment finds it very unacceptable to actually have somebody who values his beliefs more than loyalty to whoever this year’s leader is.
MDJ: My grandmother wants to know how, if elected, you’re going to get Congress to function?
Gingrich: Same way we did when I worked with Reagan in the ‘80s and same way I did when I was Speaker. We got half the Democrats to vote for welfare reform. We got a third of the Democrats to vote for the Reagan tax cut. So it can be done. It takes real leadership, but it can be done.
MDJ: During the rally you referenced the President’s religious bigotry. Give me an example?
Gingrich: Well, the whole attack on the Catholic Church. The fact that they’ve deliberately cut off funding for Catholic programs that help women who have been sexually abused. The fact that they want to impose on the church requirements on the church for abortion pills that are explicitly a violation of church doctrine. The kind of judges he appoints who tend to be very anti-religious.
MDJ: Regarding religion, has Gov. Romney’s Mormon religion been a factor in the campaign?
Gingrich: I don’t know. I think it helps him in some states and hurts him in others. But I think it’s probably a wash.
MDJ: What do you make of critics who say because Rick Santorum has framed his campaign around social issues — abortion, gay rights, etc. — that he can’t beat the President because independents will not support him?
Gingrich: I think the biggest question Rick has to answer is if you set the all time record for losing Pennsylvania as a senator in 2006, why would we think you could survive a general election? I mean, just go back and look at the ads they ran against him in 2006 and ask yourself what happens to him in a general election. I think he loses very badly.
MDJ: What’s been your favorite thing about the campaign and what has been the most disappointing?
Gingrich: I think the two favorite things for me are, one, how much closer Callista and I have gotten in terms of just working together every single day. She has really been amazing on the trail and our daughters, our grandchildren, our son-in-laws, it’s really brought us closer together as a family, and it’s been a very interesting experience. And the second I’d say is just how nice most people (have been). I mean, we have people come up and say, “we pray for you every day.” It’s very humbling and gives you a really warm feeling of people who care. I think the most unpleasant thing has been the scale of dishonesty of Romney’s campaign. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for a serious person to run a campaign as dishonest as Romney has.
MDJ: How do you overcome that?
Gingrich: You just beat him. If you’ll watch he’s losing ground every day. People are getting sick of it. The fact that the attorney general of Ohio left him this morning and said, “I can’t be for you. You’re too negative. You’re too destructive.” That’s a pretty big statement, and I think you’re going to see more people leave Romney because they’re just sick of his campaign.
MDJ: Jill Mutimer, who chairs the Marietta Board of Education, says she initially supported you but is having reservations because of your unpredictability factor, a charge you’ve heard before. How do you address her concerns?
Gingrich: Well, I mean I’ve been in public life either studying it or doing it since August of 1958. I spent 16 years helping create a majority of the House. I helped balance the budget for four straight years. I am the longest serving teacher in the senior military, 23 years teaching one and two star generals and admirals. Do I occasionally have bold ideas? Sure. Are all of them right? No. Nobody’s are. But you got to decide if you think traditional, timid politicians who avoid thinking are the future you have assistance with the current Congress. If you think you need somebody who’s going to break out, try things until they work, and push big bold change, then Newt Gingrich is your candidate. But big bold change does have some risk. I don’t kid people.
MDJ: What message do you have for Cobb Countians?
Gingrich: I think Cobb Countians know me, and all I would say to them is thanks to their support and their help I was able to serve as Speaker of the House, and in that time because of their help we did real things. Compare that to the current Congress and then ask yourself if I could get that much done working with Bill Clinton what could I get done as president? And I hope most Cobb Countians will decide that they’d like to have somebody who has been on the Square in Marietta and been at the Fourth of July in Smyrna and has a pretty good notion of the county and taught at Kennesaw.