In a rousing speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for a conservative “declaration of independence” from the Republican Party.
He also warned that Republicans face a “catastrophic” election this year unless the GOP changes course.
Gingrich pointed out that on Super Tuesday, 14.6 million voters took part in the Democratic races, compared to 8.3 million Republicans.
“There were 14.6 million Democrats who thought the presidential nomination was worth voting for, and there were 8.3 million Republicans on Super Tuesday,” Gingrich said.
“That is a warning of a catastrophic election. I was in Idaho this last week, and Barack Obama on last Saturday had 16,000 people in Boise. The idea [of] the most liberal Democratic Senator getting 16,000 people in Boise was inconceivable.
“And every person who cares about the conservative movement and every person who cares about the Republican Party had better stop and say to themselves, ‘There is something big happening in this country. We don’t understand it. We’re not responding to it. And we’re currently not competitive. And if we want to get to be competitive, we had better change and we had better change now.”
Gingrich stressed that he was not commenting on any of the current candidates for president.
Rather, he said, “this is a comment about the conservative movement, and it's a comment about the Republican Party, and all the candidates currently running fit within those two phrases. But it is about all of us. It is about our Congressman, our Senator, our governors, our county commissioners, our school board members.
“And let me make this very clear, I believe we have to change or expect defeat.
“And I believe that this is a time for the conservative movement to issue a declaration of independence…
“First of all, I think we need to get independent from a Washington fixation. There are 513,000 elected officials in the United States and the conservative movement should believe in a decentralized United States, where every elected official has real responsibility, and we should be developing a conservative action plan, at every level of this country, and not simply focused over and over again on arguments about the White House…
“I also think that we need to declare our independence from trying to protect and defend failed bureaucracies that magically become ours as soon as we are in charge of them. We appoint solid conservatives to a department and within three weeks they are defending and protecting the very department that they would have been attacking before they got appointed.”
Gingrich drew considerable applause when he continued with his “independence” theme:
“There is one other declaration of independence we need and this will startle some of you. And remember I say this from a background of having been active in the Georgia Republican Party since 1960. In a fundamental way, the conservative movement has to declare itself independent from the Republican Party.
“Let me make very clear what I'm saying here. I am not saying there should be a third party – I think a third party is a dumb idea, will not get anywhere, and in the end will achieve nothing.
“I actually believe that any reasonable conservative will, in the end, find that they have an absolute requirement to support the Republican nominee for president this fall…
“As a citizen, I would rather have a President McCain that we fight with 20 percent of the time, than a President Clinton or a President Obama that we fight with 90 percent of the time.”
But he warned: “If we run a traditional consultant-dominated tactical Republican campaign, like we’ve seen in the last eight years, we will be defeated this fall, and we will be having a CPAC meeting next year talking about how we rebuild for the future with either President Obama or President Clinton in charge.”
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