Newt Gingrich on GOP's Future

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 8, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: The top story tonight: reaction [to Republican shake-up] from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who will address the conservative Political Action Conference tomorrow. I wish I could be there. And the speaker is the author of the massive best-seller "Real Change." He joins us here in the studio. Newt, great to see you.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: It's good to see you. I actually steal part of your talking points for my talk tomorrow.

INGRAHAM: Oh, do you? Oh, great. Oh, did you have it ahead of time? Excellent. What did you think about that though, Newt, that conservatives, they're pretty dispirited and dejected? There's no part of…

GINGRICH: Well, I think it's part of a major mistake. And I thought your talking points were exactly right. The conservative movement should stand on principle no matter who's in the White House. And whether — and I actually think we did a disservice to George W. Bush by not being more aggressively critical when the Bush administration did things that were wrong.

INGRAHAM: I was pretty critical, but that's OK.

GINGRICH: But the movement wasn't. I mean, there was this sort of a well, we ought to be supportive. The fact is that whether Senator McCain ends up as president, there will be days that we fight him and there will be days that we're for him. I think we will be fighting Senator Clinton or Senator Obama a lot more often. But I don't think we should have this leader principle that whoever gets to be the head of the Republican Party we should all salute.

For me personally, I will support John McCain compared to either of the Democrats because on the Supreme Court and a whole range of issues, I think he's dramatically better for America. But I will also reserve the right to oppose him on issues where I think he's fundamentally wrong.

INGRAHAM: I think about how John McCain talks so much about bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle. And I remember when you were Speaker because I was a young kid here in Washington. And you really made your name by going against that whole push for bipartisanship. You really challenged Jim Wright and challenged the Democrats. I have a little bit of a problem with this, oh, we've got to be bipartisan no matter what.

GINGRICH: Well, I think that's exactly the point. When we did something that was very popular, we got a lot of Democratic votes. Half the Democrats voted for welfare reform because they couldn't go back home and vote against it.

But we built our bipartisanship on fundamental reforms supported by the American people. So the American people were driving Democrats our way. We did not build our bipartisanship on moving to the left to accommodate left-wing Democrats.

INGRAHAM: I can tell you what a lot of my listeners are saying in e-mails on Newt. They're saying look, Laura, you were out there criticizing John McCain on these positions from immigration to Gitmo to ANWR drilling. And now you're going to go out there and say that people should hold their noses and vote for him as president in November. And you know, you're also a conservative standard bearer on Newt. And how do you answer that type of question?

GINGRICH: Well, what I want to say to him is I disagree with Senator McCain on taxes. I disagree with him on amnesty. I disagree with him on McCain-Feingold…

INGRAHAM: Pretty big issue.

GINGRICH: …which I think is unconstitutional. But on the other hand, if you get down to a choice this fall, and your choice is Senator Obama, who is called the most liberal member of the Senate by National Journal, or Senator Clinton, whose machine, I think, has fundamental challenges to the way we operate, I don't think there's much choice for the average conservative. But you're going to end up voting for McCain. That doesn't mean you're going to salute everything John McCain wants to do.

INGRAHAM: What about the picks? If he goes moderate to moderate left with that VP picks, I mean, the conservative base will just, I really don't think they'll be able to hold their nose.


INGRAHAM: So what do you think is going to happen?

GINGRICH: Here's the great challenge for John McCain and for his team. I don't think anybody on his team understands the rhythm of the conservative movement. So I don't think they have any idea what the underlying pattern is.

INGRAHAM: You really liked a lot of the people in the conservative movement.

GINGRICH: They didn't like the conservative movement. They didn't hang with it. They are offended by it. And I think it'll be interesting to see whether or not both in the platform, in personnel choices for the cabinet and in the vice presidency whether or not they try to bring conservatives along.

I don't think you can go to the center in this country and try to be sort of an almost liberal and win an election. I think that turns off so many people that they just stay home. And I think it's very important to realize there were over 14 million Democratic votes on Super Tuesday. There were 8 million Republican votes.

INGRAHAM: They're just devastating numbers, aren't they? Isn't it?

GINGRICH: And there's a real challenge here about enthusiasm, energy and outreach. And I think that the Republican strategists had better be asking themselves what's the underlying message here?

INGRAHAM: There are a lot of Romney supporters who are really angry about Mike Huckabee and angry that he's still in the race. And I understand that because there's just so much animosity there. But don't you think one of the mistakes Romney made was not seeing the power of the evangelical movement in America, and that when they feel like they're being dismissed, which I think they did feel that, they're going to be really angry. And they're going to say, you know something? I'm going to show you a thing or two about politics. And you need these southern voters. And I just worry that, you know, Republicans are, once again, you know, punting on that issue. And it's going to come back to haunt them.

GINGRICH: Well, again, I think if, you know, Senator McCain ought to seriously consider asking Governor Romney to be chairman of the Republican National Committee. And he ought to seriously ask, consider asking Governor Huckabee either to be his vice presidential nominee or to be the chair of his campaign. But Senator McCain has got to reach out. He's the one that wants to be president.

INGRAHAM: But do you think Huckabee's going to be the one to bring together the conservative movement? I mean…


INGRAHAM: ...more so than someone like Mark Sanford in South Carolina? Throw out some other names for us.

GINGRICH: Well, I think there are a number of people coming down the road. Governor Pawlenty is another example. Paul Ryan, who's a brilliant member of the House, who I think is going to emerge as a national figure in the not distant future.

But I think that the challenge in the very short run this year is going to be how do you find people who can talk to these communities and bring them back together in a way that increases Republican turnout? Because the truth is, even when you had Huckabee and Romney and Thompson, you know, and Giuliani and McCain in the race, they were collectively attracting dramatically less of America.

INGRAHAM: But Newt, doesn't this tell us that going the way of Dole, Ford, Nixon, that kind of wing in the Republican Party verses, frankly, the Reagan-Gingrich way, that it's not even a close call, that you're not going to get the base pumped up by going back into the country club?

GINGRICH: When you realize that Republican consultants took an immense amount of money, and in 2006 we were zero for six in close Senate races…


GINGRICH: Now just think about this.

INGRAHAM: Disaster.

GINGRICH: There's an underlying message here. If we don't break out of business as usual in the next five or six months, we'll simply lose.

INGRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, on that note, we appreciate your joining us, as always.

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