This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 8, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Tonight we welcome to our "Center Seat" former House speaker, current Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, thanks for being here.
NEWT GINGRICH, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be here.
BAIER: Well, listen, there are some in the Washington pundit arena who in the summer said your campaign was all but dead. Some of them may have even been sitting on this panel.
BAIER: Now, you look at national poll. USA Today/Gallup, you are at 12 percent, currently in third place. In the Des Moines Register poll you are at seven percent, although anecdotally in Iowa you are doing very well from the crowd size. What is the path? What is the path to the nomination? What do you tell supporters out there who are questioning whether you have the support staff and the ability to make this happen?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, this summer we came close to not surviving. So I think there was a period there when it was reasonable to wonder what was going on.
We have built a campaign of solutions. If you go to Newt.org you will see a proposed 21st century Contract with America that's pretty elaborate, probably the most substantive of any campaign in recent times. And we are now methodically doing better and better.
People both from the debates and from the various speeches are responding very strongly. There were three major speeches in Iowa in the last 10 days. People I think in every single news story said I won all three events. There were multiple candidate events.
And we are seeing it in our fundraising. We have already raised $2 million in five weeks which is almost as much as we raised - in fact, almost as much as we raised in the rest of the campaign. And it's accelerating, largely online. We are opening offices in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. We already have offices in Georgia and Florida. And I think we will continue to accelerate.
BAIER: Do you have to win Iowa?
GINGRICH: I think we have to be in the top two or three in Iowa, we have to be competitive in New Hampshire, where Romney, it may be his strongest state in the country, either that or Massachusetts. And then we should -- our goal is to win South Carolina and then to go on to win Florida, and then from that point on be a very very competitive environment.
BAIER: On "Meet the Press" you were asked about Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. This is what you said.
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GINGRICH: I don't think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.
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CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The radical engineering in that case I suspect was the fact that the Ryan plan would substitute existing Medicare for a subsidy, where the government would give a subsidy for individuals to buy private insurance. Romney has come out with a plan that incorporates what Ryan is doing but would add the alternative of keeping Medicare as it is. Is that your position, and is that not radical social engineering? Or is it less radical social engineering?
GINGRICH: Well, you know you should go back and play David Gregory's question. David Gregory said if there is a very unpopular plan, he didn't say Ryan.
BAIER: But that was the plan on the table.
GINGRICH: No, he said if something is very unpopular should Republicans ram it through? Now we had just lived through Obamacare being rammed through. My advice, having successfully passed welfare reform, having by the way successfully reformed Medicare so well in '96 nobody noticed it, having balanced the budget for four years in a row for the only time in your lifetime, my advice is that you ought to make sure people understand what you are doing and they support it.
Now I actually do think Romney has improved, and I suspect Paul would agree that Romney has improved Paul's proposal because he does allow you to say you can take money and stay in current system or you can go over to get brand new.
KRAUTHAMMER: Is that your position?
GINGRICH: That is not, I wouldn't object to that. That is a piece of it. It is a much larger question if you're talking about health care. But there is another part to that. I would actually make that offer next year. I'd say, fine, if the choice is let's allow people to have the choice of a private sector insurance plan, which they buy, and I would also, as Congressman Tom Price says, allow them to pay more out of their own pocket if they want to, you can go to a voluntary premium support plan this next year. That is assuming you think people want it. Now --
KRAUTHAMMER: Do you think people want it?
GINGRICH: I think some people will want it. I think a lot of people will be very cautious. But I think imposing it is a real gamble.
KRAUTHAMMER: And that is the radical social engineering, giving no alternative?
GINGRICH: I think when you impose upon people no alternative, about a plan they don't understand that they think is at the center of their life, it's very dangerous for any party.
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Mr. Speaker, you started the drill here, drill now movement through your group Solutions Now. And I don't know if you know this, but over the weekend there were several hundred protesters outside the White House demonstrating against the Keystone XL pipeline. And you're aware that previously pipelines, like Prudhoe Bay there have been spills, accidents. Do you have any reservations about backing a pipeline or more drilling given the bad track record?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, there's not a very bad track record. And I don't think any Alaskan would suggest to you that they ought to close the pipeline, I don't think any Texan would suggest to you that they ought to close the pipelines in Texas. If you look at a map of the U.S. and where there are pipelines around this country, it's astonishing how much natural gas and how much oil we move around this country with an extraordinarily safe record.
And most of the allegations against the Keystone pipeline are just plain baloney. They involve a supposed threat to an aquifer which is clearly geological impossible. It's not going to happen.
So, what the president's doing, is the president doesn't want to make environmentalists mad and he doesn't want to infuriate everybody who wants a job. So in the middle of 9 percent unemployment he is doing exactly what he used to do when he was a state senator. He's voting present.
WILLIAMS: So you think that basically on Prudhoe Bay and what happened down in the Gulf, no problem?
GINGRICH: I don't know of anyone in Louisiana who isn't angry that the president has crippled their economy and cost over 100,000 jobs and basically, forced the major big deep drills to leave. When a company issues a report that says because of political instability in the United States we're now moving to the Congo, there is something profoundly wrong with the Obama administration.
HAYES: Mr. Speaker, I want to stick with energy policy and play a clip from an ad that you stared just a couple of years ago.
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NANCY PELOSI, D - CA, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We don't always see eye to eye, do we, Newt?