Can Newt Gingrich Win Iowa?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," November 14, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: It was only a few short months ago when rumors were running rampant that New Gingrich would soon be forced to end his run for the White House. But reports of his campaign's early demise were grossly exaggerated because now the resurgent former speaker of the House find himself at the very top of the Republican field.

Now, according to go a CNN poll released today, Gingrich is in a virtual tie with frontrunner Mitt Romney. And in less than one month, his numbers have skyrocketed by a staggering 14 points.

Now, without question, the speaker's comeback can at least be partially attributed to his outstanding performance in the debates. Now, this weekend he went head-to-head with a CBS News moderator over whether or not a president should have the authority to target an American-born terrorist. Take a look.


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    NEWT GINGRICH, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you engage in war against the United States, you are an enemy combatant. You have none of the civil liberties in the United States, you cannot go to court.


    Let me be very clear about this. There's a huge gap here that frankly far too many people get confused over. Civil defense, criminal defense is a function of being within the American law. Waging war on the United States is outside criminal law and is an act of war and should be dealt with as an act of war and the correct thing in an act of war is to kill people who are trying to kill you.



    HANNITY: That's one person that President Barack Obama does not want to face in a debate.

    Joining me now from Iowa, the man himself, his new back, by the way, "The Battle of the Crater," now in stores around the country. Presidential candidate, former Speaker of the House Newt -- you are smiling at your own answer. I like that. Welcome back.

    GINGRICH: I'm just smiling because you think back, Sean, to the funeral announcements of June and July. It is a pretty remarkable thing. Callista and I have been talking about the polls today, which had me either been a virtual tie and one case they have me ahead now by five or six points. Here in Iowa, there's a poll out that has me in first place. You know, I don't know that all of that is going to continue, there's going to be ups and downs, there will be counter attacks, but it certainly is a long, long way from June and July. And we are here in Carroll, Iowa with a lot of friends having a great evening and I'm delighted to have a chance to talk with you.

    HANNITY: Well, it's been very interesting to watch the poll numbers in this campaign. And look, you are in the race. You have to watch them. But we saw the rise and fall of Pawlenty. Michele Bachmann, she went up, she went down some. Rick Perry has experienced the same thing. Herman Cain now has fallen down a little bit.

    And you seem to go up two or three points after every debate, and then now, boom, we have one poll that has you at 28 percent, the public policy polling. We have this opinion research poll that has you at 22 behind Romney's 24. We've got a poll out of Iowa where Cain is 20, your 19 and Romney is 14. Iowa's first caucus is January 3rd.

    But what do you think has happened? Why this -- it just seemed to have -- it now was creeping up slowly and now exploded. Why?

    GINGRICH: I think a lot of people have been gradually coming closer and closer to supporting. I'll tell you what people told me here both in Carroll tonight and in Jefferson this afternoon and in Des Moines earlier today. They said they had been leaning my way, they'd been not quite decided. The last debate Saturday night really affected a lot of people. And they sort of clicked and they said, yep, I'm for him. And I think that there's a really deep sense that they want somebody who can debate Obama, but they also want somebody who if they get elected can actually change Washington. And I think the level of experience I've had in the past balancing the budget, passing entitlement reform, getting things done, and the fact that people seem to think that I'm a pretty good debater, combines to give people the sense that maybe I am the right person to get America back on the right track and to make sure that Obama is a one-term president. I think that's all coming together in way that is much faster than I thought it would be.

    HANNITY: Well, with your rise in the poll numbers come the inevitable attacks that maybe people avoided up until this point. By the way, this is not new territory for you. I was there the night you became Speaker of the House. I saw the Time Magazine, the Gingrich that stole Christmas and Newsweek, I think wasn't much better. You have one person, Kathleen Parker, by the way a CNN conservative, which isn't a real conservative, accusing you now of hating mankind. Can't get any worse than that I guess if you hate all of mankind. Mercury News, "Gingrich resurgent" --

    GINGRICH: Wait, wait, how could she possibly come up with something like that?

    HANNITY: I don't know. I mean, I don't speak for these liberal conservatives that are hired by these other news networks because they aren't conservative. But all right, I'm just giving you -- don't blame the messenger. But in Politico today, anti-Newt chatter starts. And there's a serious side to this question because the attacks are going to begin, and I will ask you about some of these issues that I think you are going to deal with in the coming days, but is this just inevitable because of the rise of the polls?

    GINGRICH: Sure. Now, look, I think if you are going to become the frontrunner to be president of the United States, you had better expect a very thorough, meticulous effort to take you apart. You know, Harry Truman said one time, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. And I think there's a lot to that. If you are not tough enough to withstand this kind of scrutiny, you are sure not tough enough to be president of the United States. And I think in many ways, Barack Obama was done a great disservice by the news media's unwillingness to take him seriously and to deal with him the way they would have anybody else. As a result, he didn't learn the things you have to learn to really be effective in the White House.

    HANNITY: Let me go through --where do you predict the attacks are going to come from?

    GINGRICH: Oh, I think whatever I predict is not where they will come from. The great thing that happens is you get hit from out of the blue with something you never dreamed of. And then you've got to relax, think it through, have a good response. You know, I voted 7,200 times in my career. I have given probably 15,000 speeches. I have written 24 books. I am ahead of Callista in that sense with "Sweet Land of Liberty," she's only a number one bestseller. I've had 13 bestsellers. We are now competing as dueling authors. But the fact is you go through all that stuff, you are going to find plenty of things to throw at me.

    The question is, do the American people care? Are they going to say, OK, so the guy has written a lot of stuff, I mean 24 books is a lot of words. You can find a paragraph here and a paragraph there. I think what people want to know is, do I have solutions for America? Am I tough enough to take the heat? And do I have the experience? We tried four years of inexperience and amateurism. Do I have the experience to actually get it done if I win? If I can answer those so people believe it, I suspect I'll end up being the next president, which is frankly a very formidable and very sobering prospect.

    HANNITY: You know, I want to get into this when we get back because if they are going to bring up your past, I think you also have an opportunity with that to talk about one of the things that were successful under the Contract with America when you were the speaker of the House, first time Republicans had taken the house in 40 years.

    And we will ask you about these specific things when we get back and some comments that the president made over the weekend. We will have more with Speaker Gingrich.


    HANNITY: And continuing to join us from Iowa tonight is former speaker of the House, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

    All right. The one area that I would predict that you are going to have questions raised, and even your own daughter wrote a column about this, is Newt Gingrich divorced his wife on her deathbed. Now, your former wife is still alive, and your daughter had to point that out in an article. But we saw how personal things got for Herman Cain and the issue of personal life. How do you -- what are you going to do when inevitably the media brings this up? What would your answer be?

    GINGRICH: Well, part of you just pointed out, is to note that my daughter, Jackie Cushman has written a column which is available and is pretty definitive about how dishonest and false those kinds of attacks were. And I think that will be part of it. Both Kathy Lubbers, my older daughter, and Jackie Cushman, campaigned with me. Jackie and my grandson Robert were actually at the last debate. I also think that people who watch Callista and me know, we have a very strong marriage, we do an immense number of things together and we have just a great relationship.

    And I think they have to measure me at 68. I'm not going to say I have led a perfect life. There are things that I have had to seek reconciliation and seek forgiveness from God, but the fact is at 68, as a grandfather in a very loving relationship with my wife and a great relationship with my entire family, that I think people have to measure that and decide is this a person who can lead America effectively? And based on the conversations over the last few months, more and more Americans think that in this time of crisis, faced with this challenge, that maybe I'm the right person to debate Barack Obama, to make him a one-term president, and to change Washington to get us back on the right track.

    HANNITY: How are you different than you were when you were speaker?

    GINGRICH: Oh, I think I am much more mature than I was when I was speaker. I think that.

    HANNITY: This is a long time ago.

    GINGRICH: Two things.

    HANNITY: You were out of office a long time. I'm not trying to tell you you are old, I'm a lot older, too but...

    GINGRICH: Thank you, Sean. I appreciate the fact you reminded me I'm not that old, although you are older too.

    HANNITY: Thanks a lot.

    GINGRICH: Look, a couple things. I think, first of all that being married to Callista has really helped a great deal and it changed my life and has given me a sense of fulfillment. Having Maggie and Robert as grandchildren has really -- you know, a grandfatherly view of the world is somehow really different. I can't quite explain it but I bet every person who's watching who is a grandparent knows what I am talking about. It gives you a very different perspective on life. And I think candidly, the recognition that I had of acceptance into the Catholic Church, the feeling of belonging to the church has been a very, very comforting, very reconciling part of life. And I find myself at the basilica every Sunday morning, we're closed to -- and I just have such a sense of comfort, that that really has, I think in a very significant way, calmed my life and given me a depth of reassurance I just didn't have.

    HANNITY: I talked to you about some specific issues recently on radio and positions you had taken over the years of that come up now. It was in the Politico piece today. For example, the ads you did with Nancy Pelosi, global warming positions, positions on a path to citizenship for people that have been in the country for certain period of time, cap-and-tax, health care mandates. Do you want to take those issues on one by one? Do you stand by those positions? Do you regret doing that ad with Nancy Pelosi?

    GINGRICH: Look, I have a different answer in different circumstances. The ad with Nancy Pelosi was probably the dumbest thing I've done in recent years. You know, I was trying to communicate that conservatives to care about the environment. All I did was make conservatives mad and liberals didn't particularly like me. So, there was a mistake. And I wouldn't go back and do it again and I'm not going to try to defend it. I opposed cap-and-trade. I testified against it at the Energy and Commerce Committee, actually the same day that Al Gore testified for it. My testimony is on YouTube. People can see it and verify it for themselves. And American solutions, I led the effort to defeat cap-and-trade in the Senate and we succeeded in defeating cap-and-trade. I think it's far too big a jump to go to cap-and-trade and I'm deeply opposed to it.

    There are some things that, you know, people are going to have to disagree on. I said something positive about part of the Dream Act. Well, nobody ever stopped to say what part was I talking about? If you are a foreigner and you join the American military and you serve honorably, it's a road to citizenship. Now, if you were somebody who came to the U.S. at three years of age and you are now 18, you technically can't join the American military. I thought that particular part of the Dream Act, to allow people to join the military just as they could if they were in a foreign country, made sense, is honorable, and is good for the country and good for the citizen who does it. That's the part I was referring to.

    HANNITY: What do you believe then, for those that may not have been around or played close attention to politics in the years you were speaker, conversely, and I doubt the media will look into this part of your past -- what do you think your greatest successes were that you would want people to know about to counter, you know, the negativity that is bound to come your way now that you are a frontrunner? What are you most proud of?

    GINGRICH: Well, look, we helped create the first Republican majority in 40 years, the first re-elected majority since 1928. We reformed welfare, the largest entitlement to be reformed so far. Two out of three people went to work or went to school. Everyone agrees it was tremendously successful in improving the lives of those who have been trapped in dependency. We had the first tax cut in 16 years, the largest capital gains tax cut in American history. Unemployment dropped from 5.6 to 4.2 percent. We balanced the federal budget for four consecutive years, paid off $405 billion in debt. I insisted on strengthening the intelligence budget and the 9/11 Commission said that Gingrich plus-up -- that was their term -- the Gingrich plus-up was the only increase in intelligence spending in the '90s.

    Finally, the single numbers. When I first came speaker, the Congressional Budget Office said, our ten year deficit projection was $2 trillion, $700 billion. When I left office four year later, they said our surplus projection for ten years was $2 trillion, $300 billion. That is a $5 trillion shift in the fiscal strength of the United States, in four years, done while negotiating with a liberal Democrat in the White House.

    HANNITY: So, you don't agree with the President that we've become a bit lazy over the last couple of decades?

    GINGRICH: I think this president blames everybody with the person responsible for the problems and that person is Barack Obama. And I think recovery will begin late on election night when people realize he's gone, the Democrats have lost the Senate and America is open for business again.

    HANNITY: And Bob Beckel is here and he wanted me to say that he was one of the early ones that predicted your rise. It doesn't mean he will support you, but he predicted it.

    GINGRICH: He's exactly right. When others said I was dead, he said, don't count me out. And I've always thought Bob was very clever, again, I don't agree with him on a lot of things, but he is very clever.

    HANNITY: I agree he is clever. And I don't agree with him on a lot. But he is a good guy. All right. One last question, I wanted you to explain the $300,000 you said you gave to Freddie Mac, that they did not take your advice. You were not a lobbyist for them?

    GINGRICH: I have never been lobbyist for anybody. In fact, my contracts exclude me from lobbying. I refuse to go back to Capitol Hill as a lobbyist. I offer strategic advice, I listen to people to tell me what their concerns are. And I try to give them advice on how to solve it.

    HANNITY: And you gave advice to Freddie Mac and they did not take it?

    GINGRICH: That's correct. But I also what to say that there's a confidentiality agreement there that I can't go into detail with. But I never did any lobbying for anyone in the years I was out of office.

    HANNITY: All right. Mr. Speaker, thanks for being with us and congratulations on your poll numbers. We will watch and wait as we assume the Newt attack watch begins. Thanks for being with us.

    GINGRICH: Take care.

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