Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich charged in an exclusive interview with Newsmax today that Mitt Romney’s “Etch-A-Sketch” campaign strategy will only alienate the conservative base he needs to defeat President Barack Obama in November should he go on to capture the GOP nomination.
Gingrich also vowed to take his “shoestring” campaign to North Carolina and said it is “highly unlikely” he would be asked to join forces with Romney as a potential running mate, though he remains open to the possibility.
|Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tours the Billy Graham Library.
“I think if they send too strong a signal that this is going to be an Etch-A-Sketch campaign, they’re going to find that they are not going to get the conservative support they need to win the general election,” Gingrich declared from North Carolina, which hosts its primary on May 8.
Gingrich lost Tuesday's Delaware primary — where he had spent a significant amount of time campaigning and had hoped to win — to Romney, but did not bow out of the GOP nomination battle.
Gingrich points to concern for conservative voters as one reason he has chosen to press on. “It’s part of why I stay in the race — because we have 180,000 donors who have indicated very clearly to me that they want the last conservative standing to keep standing — and to not back off.”
With about a fifth of the delegates going into today’s contests that Romney has collected thus far in the contentious primary battle, Gingrich readily acknowledges that he is the underdog.
But “there’s a huge difference between being inevitable and being the front-runner,” Gingrich explained. “And I think that there’s a feeling that the Romney consultants are sort of running over people.”
Having experienced two surges in his campaign already, Gingrich insists that the “psychology of a race like this is more delicate than people think” and that his prospects could turn around yet again — perhaps fueled by the winner-take-all Delaware contest tonight, or in North Carolina — a state that once breathed life into the listing campaign of then Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1976.
“I think there’s a very real possibility if we win tonight in Delaware on top of picking up some delegates in Rhode Island, and New York, and Pennsylvania, the people will then say, ‘well let’s see what happens in North Carolina, West Virginia and Indiana in two weeks.’ And so then you’ve sort of reopened what the news media has done all it could to close off,” he said.
Gingrich said that he is not surprised that conservative voters have yet to embrace the Romney campaign. “I’m not surprised because I watched the Romney campaign, which makes no effort to reach out to conservatives,” he insisted.
He blames “fear on the part of the establishment and the elite media that if they don’t somehow close the deal that it could all fall apart, and you could end up in an open convention” as reason for the rush to anoint Romney as the GOP standard bearer.
“If you’re an establishment, you think you’re supposed to be in charge,” he said. “So, actually the American people would be in charge. Think about what a great shot that would be to the establishment.”
Gingrich, who has won primaries in South Carolina and his home state of Georgia, also acknowledged that his campaign faces funding challenges.
“It’s a shoestring operation,” he conceded. “The more people that go to Newt.org the better off we are, and I’m pretty open about telling people ‘I can’t raise millions on Wall Street like Romney.’ But we have had donations from 180,000 people — 95 percent of them $250 or less.”
Voices of supporters keep him in the race, he said — like those he encountered at the Billy Graham Library in North Carolina.
“People were walking up to me who were visiting there, saying ‘please stay in. I’m for you,’” he recalled. “’You’re in my prayers.’ That’s not the kind of stuff that gets you to want to drop out.”
Even so, Gingrich acknowledged that he plans to reassess his campaign after tonight’s results are weighed. “We always reassess reality after every series of events, and you’re going to have five major primaries today,” he said while voting was still underway.
“I think we’re going to gain votes, gain delegates in Rhode Island. We may well gain delegates in upstate New York. We should gain delegates in Pennsylvania, and we have a realistic chance to win Delaware which is a winner-take-all — 17 delegates.”
Asked whether he has had any discussions with the Romney campaign about a possible nod as the vice presidential nominee, Gingrich said sharply, “No. no, no, no, and I don’t expect it.”
He went on to say that “it is highly unlikely, but I’m open to considering almost anything that would help us beat Barack Obama. Put it in that category.”
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