Declaring that he is in the race for the long haul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich floated the possibility Tuesday night that Republicans may have the first “open convention” since 1940.
“I’m certainly in it all the way to the convention. We’ll see what happens,” Gingrich told CNN. “At the rate we’re going, you could have the first open convention since 1940 which would give you something to cover that you would just love.”
In the 1940 Republican National Convention — the first televised contest — Wendell Willkie of Indiana was nominated for president on the sixth ballot in Philadelphia, according to various reference sources.
Gingrich insisted that a protracted nomination fight will not necessarily be harmful to the Republican Party, pointing to Sen. John McCain’s relatively early victory in 2008.
“If you remember Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were in a contest all the way up to mid June. It didn’t seem to hurt them,” he said. “I think we’re going to be a party of better new ideas and better new solutions as a result of this process.”
While the Gingrich campaign has placed little emphasis on the three contests taking place Tuesday night in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, Gingrich predicted that Romney will not do as well as he did in 2008 in those states. Missouri has no delegates at stake in its primary.
“I think the big story coming out tonight is it’s very hard for the elite media to portray Gov. Romney as the inevitable nominee after tonight’s over,” said Gingrich, adding that Romney was down by 20 points heading into the Colorado contest and by a similar margin in Minnesota.
Gingrich said that he has been focusing on winning the battleground state of Ohio during the March 6 Super Tuesday battle, when voters in 10 states head to the polls.
“We, I think, have a very real chance of winning Ohio so it’s very exciting to be here,” said Gingrich, who is also focusing on Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28 and Tennessee and Georgia on Super Tuesday.
“I think we’re going to do very well on Super Tuesday. We’re going to compete very intensely in Arizona and Michigan,” he said, noting that he spoke with Texas Gov. Rick Perry earlier today. Perry endorsed Gingrich after dropping out of the presidential race in January.
“We have a very strong operation in Texas. We have a very strong operation in Georgia. Our goal is through Super Tuesday; we then go to Alabama and Mississippi and then we go to Texas,” according to Gingrich.
He plans to close the gap with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by April.
“Our hope is, by the time we get to Texas on April 6, that we’ll basically be pretty close to a tie with Gov. Romney,” Gingrich declared.
He added that he would be willing to participate in additional debates prior to this year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa. The next debate is Feb. 22.
“Most people believe that I won 15 out of 17 debates and tied one and probably, you could argue, I lost one,” Gingrich said. “I would love the opportunity to have a head-on with Romney with no moderator, just a time keeper. Let’s take a couple of big ideas. Let’s talk about them together.”
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