Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, describing GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney as a "timid" alternative, reiterated Sunday that he’s not dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. That determination came even as Republican leaders like former Rep. Dick Armey blasted him for not toning down the rhetoric against his rival and the frontrunner.
"Our goal is to get to Super Tuesday, where we're in much more favorable territory," Gingrich said on NBC's "Meet the Press.” "We believe by the time Texas is over, we'll be very very competitive in delegate count."
Gingrich, who came in second Saturday in the Nevada caucuses with 22 percent of the vote to Romney’s 47 percent, said he expects to do well in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee -- three of the 10 states that will hold primaries and caucuses on March 6. Discomfort among GOP consevatives with the more-moderate Romney has kept Gingrich in the race against the better-funded and organized former Massachusetts governor.
There are 437 delegates at stake in the 10 states that vote on Super Tuesday. That’s the largest bloc yet in the GOP presidential race. Nevada, in contrast, awarded just 28 convention delegates by proportion of the vote and Romney will claim nearly half of them.
But a Super Tuesday sweep doesn't guarantee the winner the GOP nomination. It takes 1,144 delegates to clinch the party's nomination. Still, it would once again give Gingrich momentum for yet another come-from-behind surge.
And Gingrich is facing increased pressure from the GOP establishment to concede the race and let Romney prepare for what promises to be a tough fight against Obama in the general election.
Freedom Works chairman and former Armey blasted him Sunday for his tough attacks on Romney, saying Gingrich was carrying out a vendetta against the Republican frontrunner.
Gingrich’s attacks were not helpful for either the GOP in November or Gingrich’s own campaign, Armey said during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “I feel bad for him. I think he’s digressed into a state of taking a second-rate campaign and turning it into a first-rate vendetta,” said Armey
“He’s putting himself out of the game, because he can’t get over his obsession over his own hurt feelings over the campaign in Iowa,” Armey added. “He needs to get beyond that and get to the nation’s people’s business if he expects to have any chance whatsoever.”
Texas is scheduled to hold its GOP primary on April 3, but that date could slip depending on the outcome of a legal challenge to the state's redistricting map.
Gingrich told "Meet the Press" host David Gregory that the goal is to make it a "big choice campaign" and continue to draw distinctions with Romney.
He called the former Massachusetts governor “timid” and warned the conservative grassroots not to nominate a “moderate” in hopes of unseating President Obama this fall.
“The last two times we nominated a moderate, we lost badly,” he said, citing John McCain in 2008 and Bob Dole in 1996.
Gingrich, who was badly outspent in Florida and Nevada, has asked voters to look beyond the TV ads and at Romney’s record as governor.
“He was pro-abortion, he was pro-gun control he was pro-tax increase,” Gingrich said. And he dismissed Romney as a “very weak governor” when it came to spurring job growth, perhaps the defining issue in the 2012 election.
Romney came under fire, particularly from the left, this week for saying that “I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” But Gingrich attacked the comment from the conservative perspective – arguing that the safety net itself is broken.
“The safety net in many ways has become a spider web, it traps them at the bottom,” Gingrich said, pledging to turn the safety net into a “trampoline” instead.
"I don't think a timid approach will beat Barack Obama in the fall," he said, before accusing Romney of trying to "carpet bomb" his rivals out of the race. "I'm going to run a campaign of big ideas, big solutions."
"There are a series of very big differences about the level of change we would bring to Washington," Gingrich said.
Gingrich also slammed the Obama administration’s decision this week to require church-affiliated employers to cover birth control drugs in their health plans, regardless of religious beliefs. He said the decision represented “a radical Obama administration imposing secular rules on religion.”
He called it “a tremendous infringement of religious liberty” and predicted it would have “very substantial” political fallout.
“Every time you turn around secular government is closing in on and shrinking the rights of religious America,” Gingrich said.
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