Gingrich: Entire Republican establishment became unhinged in Florida

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 2, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Our Vegas forum continues tonight. The main focus of my questions is on the most critical issues facing you and your families, and that is the economy.

And still ahead, we will check in with Senator Rick Santorum. But my guest up first, I am joined by former speaker of the House ,presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich is with us. Sir, how are you?


HANNITY: Welcome to Vegas.

GINGRICH: How are you doing?

HANNITY: Good to see you. Let me start with where we are in the campaign. This is pretty fascinating. You started out before South Carolina. You were down double digits coming out of New Hampshire. Within a week, two debates later, you won by double digits. You are up by double digits in Florida. Two debates, changes, you'd lost by about the same margin that you'd won in South Carolina. How do you describe the volatility of this race? What's going on?

GINGRICH: I think it depends partly on what the voters see. In South Carolina when we won, the Romney people reached the conclusion and The New York Times reported it, that if they didn't destroy me, that they couldn't win so they outspent us about five to one in Florida. And I don't care how good you are, at five to one it's a challenge. And we didn't fully come to grips with how to deal with the attacks and with things that are just plain false. And so, we are gradually changing some of that. But I think the encouraging thing to me was, when I won in South Carolina, the vote went up. When Romney won in Florida, the vote went down. In Florida, in the counties I carried, the vote went up. The counties he carried, the vote went down. Negative advertising to suppress votes may be clever, but it's a terrible long-term strategy. I like a positive, big solution, get people to come out and vote approach. And I think that we are beginning to prove that it really works.

HANNITY: It is very interesting to me because I thought those two debate performances you had in South Carolina so defined this election that it was obvious to me that a lot of work went in behind the scenes prepping, research, practice by, Governor Romney because you -- you put them in a position that they had to raise their level. I mean.

GINGRICH: Yes, twice now.

HANNITY: You might be responsible for his good debate performances.

GINGRICH: Twice now we put him in a place where he had to do something radical or be defeated. I mean, going into Iowa I was ahead by 12 points in Gallup. Run an entirely positive campaign with no money and yet, nationwide people said, you know, they like the new Social Security model for young people, they like my tax program that the Wall Street journal said was the most aggressive job creating program. They like the idea of a 15 percent flat tax.

I mean, all these things were working, so Romney threw in three-and-a-half million in Iowa in negative ads, stopped me in my tracks. We took New Hampshire to think it through, came back in South Carolina, beat him by a historic margin, the biggest margin in South Carolina history. They stopped on Sunday morning afterwards and said, OK, we have to throw in the kitchen sink to see if we can destroy Newt. He used the word "destroy" which I thought was a little strange in a party primary. They came back and they hammered me pretty good. And I frankly thought, I was so grateful to the thousands of people who volunteered, because we had a people power versus money power primary and we were still standing, which is not what they intended. And so, here we are in Nevada.

HANNITY: All right. Now that this has happened to you twice, you've had to withstand pretty strong attacks in Iowa, it pays off. Negative advertising, anytime we poll it, we have done this with Frank Luntz, anytime you poll it, people say they don't want it but --

GINGRICH: But it works.

HANNITY: It works.


HANNITY: OK. And now it's happened in Florida. And I would anticipate that Barack Obama if you are the nominee is you're going to have a Newt look alike throwing grandma over the cliff, you know, first hitting a couple of trees on the way down to her death. I mean, it will be that dramatic. So, it's going to be something that you'll deal with throughout --

GINGRICH: Sure. And our strategy is going to be to develop basically a big truth campaign and surround the attack ads. And I think we can do it. And I think that people, you know, people ultimately don't want to have a candidate who tries to buy the presidency with attack ads. People ultimately want somebody with real solutions, which is why my speech the night of the primary in Florida, got tremendous response because I was totally positive. You know, I didn't worry about Romney, I worry about America. I worry about, what do we need to do together to get our country back in the right track.

The other thing that became obvious in Florida, the historically interesting, is that the entire Republican establishment became unhinged. I mean, when you have a guy as smart as Elliot Abrams (ph) writing an article that's so false that Rush spends two hours taking it apart, it's repudiated in National Review.

HANNITY: Actually, the American Spectator.

GINGRICH: The American Spectator.


GINGRICH: And Faith Whittlesey, the former ambassador to Switzerland, former Reagan top aide takes it apart, you get some flavor of how frightened this establishment is that I could win.

HANNITY: I thought there was supposed to be proportional distribution of delegates up until April 1st. It was written that you may challenge.

GINGRICH: Well, it's not me, it's these delegates in Florida. Bill McCollum, who was the attorney general in Florida and was my campaign chair -- this is a lawyer fight and I'm a historian. He says as a lawyer, there's no question. Michael Steele who was chairman when the rule was adopted says, there is no question, Florida will be proportional representation. That means that Romney's advantage instead of being 50 delegates will be about a net of 10, and that makes a huge difference.

I suspect there will be a fight somewhere between now and there. But I'm told by the lawyers that it's pretty clear that it's supposed to be proportional.

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