Monitor Breakfast Q&A: Newt Gingrich

After reassuring reporters "the reports of my campaign's death were highly exaggerated," former House Speaker and current candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination Newt Gingrich told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast that, among other things, Republicans needed to win the debate over Medicare or risk creating "for Obama the Harry Truman moment of coming back and winning by being against us."

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Former House Speaker and current presidential candidate Newt Gingrich talks the 2012 GOP primary campaign with reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington DC, on May 23, 2011.

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich taught college before he was elected to the House in 1978. He was architect of the Contract With America that led to Republicans taking control of Congress in the 1994 election. Mr. Gingrich was speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. He spoke May 23 at the Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C.

His presidential campaign:

"I wanted to reassure you, in Mark Twain's tradition, that the reports of my campaign's death were highly exaggerated."

Running as an outsider:

"I am not a Washington figure despite the years I have been here. I am essentially an American whose ties are across the country and whose interest is how do you change Washington, not how do you make Washington happy."

Portrait of the Gingrich voter:

"A Gingrich voter will turn out to be a ... person who believes America is seriously on the wrong track, partially because of Barack Obama but also because of underlying patterns and underlying controversies that have been building for a very long time. And it is a person that believes that we need a very strong leader who is prepared to stand up and fight if necessary to get Washington to change."

Fighting over Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, which includes a Medicare overhaul that Gingrich criticized early in his campaign:

"My advice for Republicans is very straightforward: You have to win the debate over whether or not it is important to improve Medicare.... You have to win the argument that the Democrats are fundamentally irresponsible and dishonest.... If you can't defend what you are doing and you can't explain it, you create for Obama the Harry Truman moment of coming back and winning by being against us."

Whether he is on Medicare:

"Yeah, I am over 65. So, by the way, I have a deep concern about what anybody is going to do to my Medicare."

Press coverage of personal matters:

"We are in a society in which gossip replaces serious policy, and then everybody wrings their hands about how hard it is to have a serious conversation. By definition, if you run for president, anything is on the table.... I accept that, but I don't have to participate in the conversation. I can focus on what I think the American people need to worry about."

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