Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on Monday pledged to compete in every state on the GOP primary calendar, outlining as part of a full-court press a busy travel schedule that would blaze through the early primary states.
Gingrich spent last week on a swing through Iowa and told a group of Washington, D.C., political reporters his campaign would take him next to Florida, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. He’s asking supporters in his native Georgia to volunteer for him in Florida and South Carolina. Gingrich plans to draw Republican voters into his coalition by focusing on issues that affect them personally, saying he would talk “to an audience that no traditional Republican consultant would think of.”
“I’d like to be as competitive as we can everywhere,” Gingrich said at a breakfast gathering sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, likening his political strategy to the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s style of employing a full-court press in an attempt to exhaust opponents.
“I think a Gingrich voter will turn out to be a person who answers the first two questions,” he said. “It’s a person who believes that America is seriously on the wrong track, partially because of Barack Obama, but also because of underlying patterns … that have been building for a very long time. And it’s a person who believes we need a very strong leader who is prepared to stand up and fight, if necessary, to get Washington to change.”
Gingrich said his schedule calls for him to campaign in New Hampshire on Wednesday and Thursday and in South Carolina on Friday, where he will focus on the Obama administration’s National Labor Relations Board complaint against Boeing’s decision to expand its production line to the right-to-work Palmetto State, as opposed to labor-union-heavy Washington state.
Gingrich said his campaign message would focus on the economy and health care, the notion of American exceptionalism, and national and homeland security. The former Speaker continued to distance himself from remarks he made May 15 in which he described a House GOP plan to overhaul Medicare as “right-wing social engineering” that should be avoided. Yet Gingrich indicated that he still might have concerns with the proposal, authored by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
“If this plan is the beginning of a conversation — and Paul and I have talked about it several times this week — if this is the beginning of a conversation, about how do we improve Medicare, how do we make it financially survivable for the next generation, it will be a very large net asset,” Gingrich said. “If the focus is on, is this plan as of this moment perfect, then I think you’ve got a totally different outcome. I would urge Republicans to start with, how do we have a conversation with the American people.”
Ryan’s Medicare proposal would revamp the federal health insurance program for seniors. Users would instead buy private insurance, and Medicare would help subsidize the cost by making payments to the chosen plan. The proposal would not affect seniors 55 and older. Gingrich said he is a “strong supporter” of Ryan’s plan to turn Medicaid into a block grant program. Medicaid is a health care program for the poor that is jointly funded by the federal government and the states.
Later during the question-and-answer session, when a reporter asked Gingrich if he was on Medicare, the former Speaker said he was. Gingrich then added, unprompted, “So, by the way, I have a deep concern about what anybody’s going to do to my Medicare.”
Watch a clip from the breakfast: