A victorious Newt Gingrich declared his improbable victory in South Carolina a “very humbling and very sobering” experience and challenged President Barack Obama to a series of seven, three-hour debates if he becomes the GOP nominee.
“The biggest thing I take from the campaign in South Carolina is that it is very humbling and very sobering to have so many people who so deeply want their country to get back on the right track,” acknowledged Gingrich with his wife, Callista, by his side.
Gingrich, who often criticized for being overly bombastic, was nothing if not humble in his victory speech. “If I do become you nominee — and I think with your help I will become your nominee — but with your help — together — if that happens and it’s all up to all of us to work to make it happen — If that happens, then I will challenge president Obama to seven three-hour debates,” he declared.
He insisted that he did not win over South Carolina voters with his superior debating skills, something that a number of analysts point to in explaining Gingrich’s surge.
“People completely misunderstand what’s going on. It’s not that I am a good debater; it is that I articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people,” Gingrich said.
He had high praise for his opponents in the race, and particularly Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who dropped out on Thursday and endorsed Gingrich.
“His passion is implementing the 10th Amendment. We are going to work with him to return power to the states, to local governments, to get it out of Washington, D.C.,” Gingrich said.
He even had kind words for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who finished second on the night, saying that “Romney, with whom I disagree on many issues, is nonetheless a good example of America. He is hard working. He has been very successful. He has organized large systems. He did a terrific job at the winter Olympics."
Gingrich repeated some of the themes from the two South Carolina debates that earned him standing ovations earlier in the week, even referring to Obama as the “most effective food stamp president in American history.”
As the crowd chanted “U.S.A.,” Gingrich responded with a pledge to run an American campaign.
“You sort of just now captured the heart of this campaign,” he told the crowd. “The fact is we want to run not a Republican campaign. We want to run an American campaign because we are optimists about the future because America has always been optimistic about the future.”
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