March 20, 2012

Is Newt Gingrich best equipped to take on Obama?

Guests: Newt Gingrich, presidential candidate

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 20, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST OF "HANNITY": All right, that's Rick Santorum now, finishing his speech tonight, as the Republican primary is over tonight in the great state of Illinois.

We heard from former Governor Romney. We heard from Senator Santorum there. Joining me now, the former speaker of the House, presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich.

You did not really compete in Illinois. There has been a choice that candidates are making. Why not Illinois? What are you looking forward to in Louisiana as you look forward?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm speaking to you from Alexandria, Louisiana. We’ve had a great day today in Shreveport, Louisiana Tech in Monroe and now here in in Alexandria. I think candidates have to pick the areas they think they can win it.

I think we have a much better chance of winning in Louisiana. Governor Romney had a pretty good day today. I think he took a step towards clearly proving he was the frontrunner. Senator Santorum didn't have a particularly good day.

This is the third time now he’s tried an industrial Midwestern union state and not succeeded. And I think that the conservatives have to think through the right strategy if they hope to stop Romney.

We are faced, I think, with a very serious challenge, in terms of who can beat Barack Obama. That, in the end, is what this is all about. Who can beat Barack Obama? I think that it's very difficult to imagine that the governor who used Teddy Kennedy as his adviser, who designed Romneycare as the forerunner to Obamacare is going to do very well.

Frankly, Senator Santorum, who I like personally, I think has a hard time explaining why the guy who set the all-time record for losing Pennsylvania, somebody who took a balanced budget, which I left behind and as part of the leadership ran up a trillion dollars (ph) in deficits and was part of the largest defeat in Watergate in 2006 as part of the leadership.

So I'm staying in the race because I really do think it's a question of who can beat Barack Obama. I think the case I'm making on gasoline, the case I'm making on an American energy policy, is effective.

If you watch the White House, for two weeks now, we've had them responding. The president spent his Saturday speech attacking my proposal to get gasoline below $2.50, Axelrod his campaign manager was attacking me personally on Sunday.

I think the fact is we have a program that would get gasoline below $2.50. People can go to Newt.org to see it. I think here in Louisiana, I’m making the case that this is an administration, which asked the Saudis to pump more oil, when they should be asking Louisiana and Texas to pump more oil.

Obama's putting jobs in Saudi Arabia that ought to be jobs in Louisiana. He is sending money to Saudi Arabia that should be sent to Louisiana. I think we can make a very strong case for beating Obama based on his very, very bad energy policies.

And I’ve tried to take this team of freedom, which all of us agree on. But I've tried to apply it to a particular place, American freedom, based on American energy, creating much more oil and gas, driving down prices, and giving the American worker a fair break so the worker has freedom because he or she has a take-home pay after filling up the gas tank.

HANNITY: As we look at where we are at this particular point in the race in terms of delegates and state wins, you have been using an analogy this is half-time. You know, how do you shift that momentum dramatically enough, politically speaking, that you could capture the nomination.

You even talked about the possibility that, well, there might be a situation where Governor Romney doesn't get the 1,144 delegates to get the nomination outright? Is that more the goal? I'm sorry, go ahead.

GINGRICH: Sean, it's going to be a two-part process. Obviously, if Governor Romney's able by the sheer weight of money and that's what we're talking about. If you'll notice in Illinois, by the way, turnout was down, once again.

The Romney machine can drive down turnout. It can run over opponents with negative ads. It doesn't seem capable of inspiring positive turnout. And the result is very, very worrisome, if you are thinking about the fall campaign.

Phase one has to be stopping Romney because the fact is if he gets 1,144 votes, he's the nominee. Fair and square, it's over. On the other hand, if as voters look at this, as happened last week, for example in Mississippi and in Alabama, as happened the previous week in Kansas, if people say, no, they don't want Romney, then I think you get to a situation after June 26, where there’s a 60-day conversation.

Santorum won't have a majority, I won't have a majority, Romney won't, Ron Paul won't, if that's what happens, then we'll have a real conversation about who can best beat Barack Obama. I think that most Republicans agree that if the key is to debate the president, he's going to have a billion-dollar campaign fund.

If the key is who can take him on head to head, I think I am proving every day with this energy campaign, that I can take on Obama, that I can design strategies that put him in a huge disadvantage.

He is losing the argument over expensive gasoline. The absurdity he came up with of suggesting that if only we had algae, that algae was somehow going to be replacing drilling, that was so badly received by the country, he dropped it after one speech.

So, you can see the White House beginning to respond. If I can convince the Republican delegates of that, I think we have a chance to win the nomination by the time we get to the convention.

HANNITY: All right, Mr. Speaker, we really appreciate you being with us. That ends it for this primary night in -- from Illinois

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