Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich stopped by WRAL this morning for an interview. He was in the state for a fundraiser and event in Wilmington. And he says we can expect to see a lot more of him over the next few weeks.
Recent staff cuts and travel changes have led to speculation that Gingrich is contemplating quitting the race. But he said today he intends to fight hard for North Carolina.
The state has 55 delegates to offer - proportionally, like most other states, so the winner wouldn't take all. But Gingrich's two state wins so far have been in Georgia and South Carolina, and he's hoping to add the Tar Heel state to his W column.
Under new GOP rules, Gingrich will need five state wins to even be considered at an open or "brokered" convention.
"The fact that as a Georgian, I understand southern values, and the fact that I helped balance the budget four straight years, and we helped pass welfare reform – and I’ve actually done the things people want to get done - are a huge advantage," he said.
You can watch the full interview below. Some of the highlights:
"I think our goal is to get to the convention with Romney below 1144 and have a genuinely open convention and let people decide who can do the best job of debating Barack Obama, who can do the best job of winning the general election," he said. "We’re campaigining very heavily in Delaware and Rhode Island, and we hope to do well there. Santorum has to win Pennsylvania . That’s very clear. But if that happens, then North Carolina will be very much in play, because that’s the next big opportunity."
On North Carolina's role in November:
"I think Obama understands that if he doesn’t carry Virginia and North Carolina, he may not be elected. And so he’s the first Democrat in modern times who has felt that he has to focus in these areas. And I think he’s gonna go all out. I think we have to recognize – we have to make the case that whether you’re talking about the price of gasoline, you’re talking about unemployment, [or] you’re talking about the size of the federal deficit, you can’t afford four more years of Barack Obama."
On whether the GOP primary has hurt the candidates:
"You know if you think about basketball, which is very big in this state, the final four comes after a very long season, and presumably the teams that are in the final four are a lot better than they were at the beginning of the year because of all the games they played," he said. "The morning this is over, whoever the nominee is, and the choice is clearly Obama and the Republican, and the issue becomes Obama’s record, you’ll see the Republican candidate rise very dramatically."
On supporting Romney if he wins the nomination:
“I think compared to Barack Obama, it’s easy to support either Romney or Santorum,” he said. All three of us are committed to defeating Barack Obama."
On NC's marriage amendment:
“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I’m for the traditional definition of marriage.”
As a historian, what do you make of parallels drawn between same-sex marriage today and interracial marriage 30 years ago?
“I think we’re having a very large conversation as a country about what are our values, what do we believe in? I think that those of us who are in fact committed to a more conservative definition have an obligation to be as direct and as committed as are the people who are trying to radically change our society.”
On partisan gridlock in Washington:
"I think that the partisanship we’re seeing right now is almost entirely a function of Obama’s personality," said Gingrich. "As Speaker of the House, I had to work with Bill Clinton for practical reason – if he didn’t sign it, it wouldn’t become law. So I had to find a way to be bipartisan in order to get something done."
"Getting people to work together in a legislative environment requires a personality that’s willing to listen to people and willing to try to work with them," he added. "And I don’t sense any of that in the current president."
On the key to winning NC:
"I think making the case that we need somebody who can defeat Obama in debates in the general election is probably my strongest single suit. That when you think about trying to take on a guy who’s going to have a billion-dollar campaign, you’d better have somebody who can stand on the same platform and can defeat him if you’re gonna win the general election.”
On NC’s vinegar/tomato barbeque schism:
“I like barbeque well enough I’m prepared to eat the right barbeque in the east and the right barbeque in the Piedmont. As a Georgian, I think I can lay some claim to barbeque, and so I’m happy to come and eat both kinds.”
On 2.50 gas, and an AP study that showed little correlation between domestic oil production and US gas prices:
“The studies don’t look at the size of the increase I’m describing. For the United States to be energy independent, we need to increase our production by 4 million barrels a day. Nobody can argue that 4 million barrels a day wouldn’t drive down the price."
Do we know where 4 million more barrels a day are?
“Yes. The revolution in drilling technology – we know for example in North Dakota alone, we’ve gone from 150 million barrels to 24 billion barrels. So just in North Dakota, we’ve had revolution in available energy.”
“Most of the evidence on fracking seems to be that if it’s done correctly, that it’s irrelevant – that you won’t notice it,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be any significant side effects.”
Should Washington play an increased role in regulating fracking safeguards?
“I wouldn’t put Washington in charge, because they’ll kill it. The Environmental Protection Agency is anti-American energy, and every single step they’ve taken has opposed American energy. It’s amazing to watch. They’re trying to destroy the coal industry, they’re trying to tie down the oil industry - if it isn’t a very, very, very expensive new technology, they’re opposed to it.”
Gingrich says he’ll be back in NC Monday and Tuesday, holding town hall meetings and visiting college campuses, adding, “I would hope to come and visit the legislature.” That would probably have to happen on April 23rd.