Return to Transcripts main page


South CArolina Primary Coverage - 2100 Hour; Newt Gingrich Remarks

Aired January 21, 2012 - 21:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, so, you know what, we've heard from Santorum. We've heard from Ron Paul. We've heard from Mitt Romney. We're still waiting to hear, though, from the winner of the South Carolina Primary, Newt Gingrich. And I guess he's getting ready to speak pretty soon.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: At this point, in terms of money, I mean, Newt Gingrich got a big infusion of cash from Adelson in order to - to run, to get ads running in South Carolina. How is his financial situation?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's trying to raise a lot of money now off of this win in South Carolina. And I suspect that he'll be able to do that. But what Newt has managed to do is use these debates, which are free of charge, as a way to really catapult him to the top of the pack here.

COOPER: Is the story of this election, the super PAC or is it the debates? It seems like it's the debate.

GERGEN: It's the debates, but the super PACs have mattered. Because in Iowa he didn't have any money and Romney can go after him and he couldn't respond and he got slaughtered. And he's come back now and he has a fund and he can defend himself and that allows him to go to the debates in a more even position and that's why he won.

BORGER: What's so interesting to me about Newt Gingrich is that he started out saying he was going to be positive. And then he said, well, he was being attacked unfairly and then he got super PAC money and he started attacking. And then he took Romney on on taxes. And so he's managed to kind of be on both sides of that argument and win.

GERGEN: Yes. Don't you think he'll call Mr. Adelson and say, why don't you double down?

COOPER: (INAUDIBLE). And his ability and so he should be able to double down if -

GERGEN: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- so inclined. Wolf, John, what are you guys looking at in terms of numbers?

BLITZER: We're looking ahead now. We're trying to assess where we all go from here. John, we know we're going to Florida, January 31st the Republican Primary in Florida, and the demographics in Florida among the Republicans, they're a bit different than South Carolina.

KING: It's a bigger state. It's a more diverse state. It's a bit more moderate if it votes with its presidential past. 2010, Florida was a conservative state in the primaries. But if you look back at the 2008 elections, South Carolina is a very conservative state, Florida conservative but more toward the middle of the electorate.

So what do we look for going forward? Let's look at a couple of things tonight. Among very conservative voters in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich got almost half of them, and that's a big slice of the electorate tonight. Gingrich getting - Speaker Gingrich nearly half.

And this is important. Governor Romney coming in third among most conservative voters. Senator Santorum coming in second. This is a problem going forward. It's never been Mitt Romney's strength but among very conservative voters he needs to boost his standing some. He doesn't (ph) have to win this group to win the nomination, to rebound. But he needs to do better than 19 percent as we move on among very conservative voters.

Now, Florida as a bigger slice of moderate voters than South Carolina, among moderates in South Carolina tonight, it was Governor Romney who took the biggest slice of the pie, 36 percent, closely behind Speaker Gingrich at 31 percent.

Again, Governor Romney in Florida needs to at least match this. He'd like to build a little bit, but he needs to definitely beat Speaker Gingrich in Florida. If he is to win there, there's a bigger moderate. This slice of the pie will be more voters in Florida than it is in South Carolina. Governor Romney needs to keep that, probably build on it.

Again, you see Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul running well behind among moderate voters.

This to me is the biggest question heading out of South Carolina. A more conservative electorate in South Carolina, those voters who went to the poll saying their priority number one was beat President Obama. Look at this. This has been the underpinning of the Romney campaign, that's he's the strongest Republican against Barack Obama. Most of the national polls have reinforced that view.

South Carolina Republicans think Speaker Gingrich, the majority of them think Speaker Gingrich who voted today is a stronger candidate. Thirty-seven percent said Governor Romney was the stronger candidate.

If this psychology takes hold among other Republican voters, Wolf, as we move on through the calendar, that's a problem for Governor Romney and a boost for Speaker Gingrich. But this to me is a huge factor coming out of South Carolina.

The caveat I would add, though, is that it's a more conservative electorate, he was winning and winning big. So the attentions run up the other categories. But if you're Team Romney, you're looking at that. This has been their entire campaign, I can beat Barack Obama. You've heard that from Romney from the beginning. He needs to change that.

BLITZER: And you already hear, John, and I'm sure you have as I have, Mitt Romney supporters, Rick Santorum supporters saying, look, this is South Carolina, a neighboring state to Georgia. It's what New Hampshire was to Massachusetts for Mitt Romney. Why should anyone be surprised that a southerner like Newt Gingrich wins in South Carolina?

KING: It's a perfectly rational thing to say. We could also say that, well, didn't our poll just ten days ago show Mitt Romney with a 10-point lead?

So you can have the rebuttal. There's no question. Newt Gingrich is from a neighboring state, southern affinity mattered here. There's also no question that the debates matter for Speaker Gingrich here. Yes, all that is true. All that is true.

Strip all that away. Politics is about winning. And Newt Gingrich has won the last contest. He carries momentum now into the State of Florida. Again, a less conservative electorate. You can argue a piece of Georgia borders Florida, too. A piece of Georgia borders the most conservative part of Florida. So we'll watch this once it goes out.

You've heard the others make the point. Ron Paul just made the point, which is why he wouldn't play heavily in Florida. It's going to cost a lot more money because of all the TV markets the more diverse electorate. Lucky for Mitt Romney, it's a more moderate electorate. I'm not saying it's a moderate electorate, but it is less hardcore conservative than South Carolina, at least it was in 2008.

We're going to learn a lot. Because in 2010 it was more conservative. Florida is going to be very, very, very interesting.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Anderson, we're all getting ready to hear the winner of the South Carolina primary. Newt Gingrich, he's going to be speaking fairly soon.

COOPER: And, of course, we're going to be bringing that to you live.

You know, it wasn't just that Newt Gingrich did well in the debates, also Governor Romney stumbled in the debates, particularly on tax issues. He looked uncertain on a lot of things. He played into all the - the stereotypes that people have said about him, that he's a waffler. A few good debate performances could - could turn things around for him.

FLEISCHER: Mitt Romney came off with a nice win in New Hampshire and came to South Carolina and the debates he stumbled over taxes and he didn't do as well on Bain and his hits against Newt just weren't as effective. I mean, it is kind of a remarkable flat line coming off of the high and Newt took great advantage of it.

BRAZILE: He also said, you know, that the $300,000 in speaker fees was not much. It made him seem like he was clueless and out of touch with people. You know, this is also the third straight state that he has lost independents. And going down the road, again, as we start looking at delegates, that's going to be very, very crucial if he, you know, attempts to at least try to sort the nomination by the end of April.

CASTELLANOS: He told his campaign a few weeks ago that can you get nearly 30 percent of the vote in South Carolina, they would have been thrilled. I think the campaign handled expectations maybe not as well as they could have.

If they had said after Iowa, hey, look, South Carolina is just like Iowa except tougher, we'll be glad to take second or third place there and we're going to win New Hampshire. And then after that, it could have been what New Hampshire was for Bill Clinton, the comeback kid state where Clinton actually won when he came in second. And misplaying I think South Carolina hurt a little bit, but he's going to more favorable ground now and after that he has Michigan and Nevada.

Newt still has to be tested as a candidate. All the attacks on Newt. You know, when I first hit somebody, the voters look at that candidate and say, wait a minute, is that true? Can I believe that attack? That usually takes a few days to litigate. Next week, we're going to see Newt tested.

COOPER: So you're saying that the impact of the Marianne Gingrich interview might not be felt until next week?

CASTELLANOS: We're going to - yes. Usually, you know, when a campaign gets hit with a charge, we've seen Herman Cain go through this, the first thing that happens is your voters kind of cling to the life raft they're on. Stormy seas out there, who's telling the truth, I don't know.

Gingrich came out with an aggressive denial. That's not true. Over the next week, we're going to start looking at Newt Gingrich's character. Why aren't establishment Republicans supporting him? Why are so many conservative who worked with him not supporting him? So, yes, I think that's to be determined.

COOPER: Does the fact that establishes - what were you going to say?

CARVILLE: No. Just I wanted to make one. Bloomberg is reporting that Jeb Bush is not going to endorse, which is significant -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess Jeb Bush said that. Jeb Bush himself.

CARVILLE: Yes, Jeb Bush himself. OK. Reporter on Jeb Bush said that he wasn't going to endorse. You can read whatever tea leaves you want out of that.

This is something State of Florida Republicans, think of what you know about Newt Gingrich tonight and I'm telling you what you're going to know about Newt Gingrich in ten days, he's going to be - I mean you're going to find out stuff that - because it's all coming now. It's all coming now.

BORGER: You know, when you talk to the Romney people, the thing that they say to you is the problem was that they didn't have enough time to tell everybody about the real history of Newt Gingrich and about his - his life as a legislator and how they didn't want him to return as Speaker of the House and why Republicans don't like him and how they feel about him. And now they feel they've got 10 days before the upcoming primary and they can do that.


CASTELLANOS: That's half their problem. Half their problem is they let Gingrich run loose. But Gingrich picked up a ball bat to defend himself. He wasn't even thinking about doing it, that they left lying on the table for a year. What is that ball bat? Gingrich says, look, it's how much change do you want in Washington? Do you want something big, something strong like this?

Romney hasn't done that. He's an incrementalist. He's come across as a tweaker. And right now Republicans are so scared of what's happening in this country, they're willing to put up somebody big and strong who may not -

FLEISCHER: What Mitt really needs is an ideological approach with Newt. What he should do, let's say that Newt's unsteady leadership is the biggest setback for the conservative cause and risks at all. For example, when Newt Gingrich says that Paul Ryan's plan, the social engineering of the right, there's an angle here for Mitt to make an ideological conservative based case that Newt Gingrich messes up what conservatives are for because of Newt's unsteady leadership.

CASTELLANOS: Yes. There's more to it than that. You know, we don't know what a president will be faced with. We want somebody in that chair who can handle big things. Newt Gingrich got attacked, he demonstrated tremendous strength.

Mitt Romney, next time somebody accuses him of closing down a steel mill should say, yes, I'm that guy, and you know what, I'd do it again. I hate to do it. I hate to do it, it would hurt. But somebody needs to go to Washington and I think I can replace most of these buildings and here we have like three good websites. We've got to change this country dramatically. He's that kind of guy. He does transformational things.

CARVILLE: You know, the truth of the matter is the conservatives don't trust Romney. It's just I've seen it time and time and time again. And you go out and I talked to him, I see him. I know him. They don't trust him. They don't feel like he's one of them. He doesn't give off the odor that he's one of them. He doesn't really try to be one of them. And they know it and he -

GERGEN: See, James, that's true. But he - he had this within his grasp. It was so close.



GERGEN: And you - you pointed it earlier tonight. Gingrich really did come in and take it away from him, but Romney let it slip away from him.

FLEISCHER: That's why he needs to make the ideological case against Newt, not the personal case.

BORGER: And can I just say that when it comes to the wealth gap issue, which is going to be the big issue in this campaign, Newt Gingrich is somebody who started out this campaign, the big story was he had a $500,000 charge account at Tiffany's. That by the way will resurface, I am sure.

Mitt Romney is somebody who was uncomfortable in talking about his personal wealth and wouldn't - and wouldn't release his tax returns.

Neither of these gentlemen right now are speaking to middle-class voters.

GERGEN: No, no, no. That's different. Newt did well among -

BORGER: He did well - he did well in South Carolina. But - but I guarantee you, Romney is going to try again on that. He may not be the guy to attack him on that but he will try -

CARVILLE: But let's consider this possibility, Romney is not a very skilled candidate. He hasn't pulled off in a debate when he - he doesn't pull off attacks very well. He doesn't - he not very good on his feet.

He keeps making - the one thing you're never going to hear, you're never going to report a senior Romney strategist said today we're just going to go out and let Mitt be Mitt. Oh, no, no, don't say that. That's the last thing you want is Mitt to be Mitt in this thing. You want to be (INAUDIBLE). He just - it may be - we're going to see. He's going to be tested. I think Dave or somebody made the point. They're going to be tested.

CASTELLANOS: I don't know about that. I would - I might take exception to that. I've had the opportunity to get to know Mitt Romney a little bit over the years, worked for him last time. He is a guy who is willing to make tough choices and make tough decisions. And in business and as a president, sometimes you have to cut things and make tough decisions to save for the greater good.

He's done that as a CEO, he could do that as president.

CARVILLE: I'm just saying - he might have been a great CEO. I'm just making - I'm not - I'm saying he's been a lousy candidate so far. He doesn't do well on his feet.

BORGER: He did well in the first debate.


BRAZILE: ... making the mistakes. They're looking for the - the Republicans are angry and they're looking for someone who can, you know, basically put out the red meat and that's where -

COOPER: Let me bring in Mr. Erick Erickson in this conversation, who have been listening in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ask Erick if the Republicans trust Mitt (ph).

BRAZILE: Ask him about the base. Ask him about the base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know the answer to that.

BRAZILE: Ask him about the base.

COOPER: Erick, that was - that was the question, do Republicans trust Mitt Romney? Do conservatives trust him?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, they don't trust Mitt Romney. I mean, that's why we're seeing this. Conservatives are rejecting the Washington consensus that Mitt Romney should be the nominee. They did it in Iowa, they're doing it in South Carolina. The more conservative they go, the more likely they are to reject him.

The base feels like they return the Republicans to power in Washington in 2010 and ever since the Republican leaders in Washington have been sticking it to them. They're really tired of having Washington Republicans basically what they're - basically like when you talk to them, shooting them the middle finger so to speak. Now it's their turn to pay them back.

TRAVIS: And, look, Anderson, to the point James made, he's right. Alex, you can try to defend him all you want to. But Mitt Romney - Mitt Romney is not providing the emotional lift, if you will, that Republican voters want to see. He's extremely calculated. He's very corporate. You don't have a sense of emotion.

In many ways, he's sort of like Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. No, no, follow me here. Mitt Romney is going to have to touch to the emotional core of voters who want somebody to sit there and fight. And when Newt Gingrich is there giving them what they want, Romney is going to have to break loose and cut to the point.

COOPER: I want Alex to respond. We've got to take a break.

TRAVIS: ... (INAUDIBLE), he's out to play to win.

CASTELLANOS: Sure. Just want to say quickly that the Romney campaign I think made a calculated decision to run him as the establishment candidate. And Ari is right, they left the right open and they left all that heat and passion going.

And the calculation must have been no one in the field can beat him, there really is a serious threat. Now there may be one. There's a way for Romney to do this still, to be able to change Washington. He did it that at New Hampshire at the - at the very end of the last game thing. He said, look, I'm the guy who can change Washington, that's what a businessman knows how to do. That's when his campaign started to catch on. He's going to have to compete for the change Washington vote now with Gingrich.

COOPER: And we're waiting to hear what Newt Gingrich, what his message is going to be tonight. We'll carry that live as soon as we can. We're going to take a quick break and be right back.


BLITZER: We've heard from three of the candidates so far, but the winner, Newt Gingrich, still has not yet spoken. You're looking at live pictures over at his headquarters. He's getting ready to speak. You see the stage filling up with his guests, some members of his family, presumably will be there as well. We know Calista, his wife, will be standing right at his side as she always is.

Let's show you what we know about the official tally right now. We do know that Newt Gingrich is the winner of the South Carolina primary. But right now, he's got 41 percent with 82 percent of the precincts reporting, wow, that's pretty good. Forty-one percent for Newt Gingrich, almost 185,000 votes.

Hundred and twenty thousand votes for Mitt Romney, 27 percent; 18 percent for number three, Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator and 13 percent for Ron Paul, 61,000 plus votes.

But Newt Gingrich the big winner. You're looking at this picture. He's getting ready to speak. This is going to be an important speech. And one thing I'm going to be interested in hearing, will he stay positive? Will he try to project a very presidential above-the-fray atmosphere, if you will, or will he get tough with Mitt Romney and some of the other candidates?

Let's go over to John King, who's watching all of this over to the exit poll results. It's a tough question that he's going to have to decide. Does he take the high road in this speech and simply focus his attention on President Obama, which we know he'll do? Or does he take the opportunity to slice away at Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum?

KING: I would not expect slicing in this speech at all. Our information is a lot of focus on President Obama. South Carolina voters decided he was the more electable candidate. Speaker Gingrich tonight, look for him to try to build that going into Florida and look for him to try to make his case that he's the Reagan conservative. So not so much criticizing them, but a contrast. That's the case he wants to make.

So what did we learn tonight as we prepare to wait for the winner? We learned that in South Carolina he won among the biggest constituency. Sixty-four percent of the voters, evangelical Christians. Speaker Gingrich gets 44 percent of that vote. Rick Santorum came in second among evangelicals, essentially a tie. Governor Mitt Romney at 30 percent. Here's a big slice.

Not as big of a percentage of the electorate in Florida, but the next stop will be evangelicals, but Newt Gingrich enters Florida with strong support up in the Panhandle area, these are critical voters. They're more southern, if you will, in Florida. That's one there.

The Tea Party, it was a big force in 2010 in South Carolina, it was a big force in 2010 in Florida. So will Florida be in this election like 2010 or like 2008? Among Tea Party supporters, again, two-third of the South Carolina electorate supported the Tea Party, Gingrich gets 45 percent, Romney coming in neck to 25 percent, Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul trailing.

Again, this is an important Republican constituency going forward. Very interesting there.

One more point I want to make. Among those who had a positive view of Mitt Romney's role as an investor, remember Bain Capital was a big issue. Mitt Romney's taxes, his business career with Bain Capital. Among those who had a positive view of Mitt Romney's role as an investor, he essentially split the vote, a slight advantage - a slight advantage for Romney in South Carolina.

But among those who had a negative view of Romney's role as an investor, remember Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry before he dropped out was leading this attack, half of the vote there.

So as we watch this go on, obviously Governor Romney coming in with a tiny slice among those who had a negative view. If you're Newt Gingrich and you're studying this piece of the exit polling, you would continue your attacks on Bain Capital and Newt Gingrich essentially saying he's greedy, he doesn't care about workers. I wouldn't expect that in the speech tonight. Look for more of the I won project forward.

But as you go on to Florida, they understand serious impact of criticizing Bain Capital. Expect that to continue.

BLITZER: And one interesting thing about Newt Gingrich, you and I have covered him for many year. He is a very, very self-confident man. Even when he was down, he projected confidence that he knew where he was going, that he would eventually emerge and he is emerging right now in South Carolina as the winner.

By the way Calista, Mrs. Gingrich, is now in the room. You'll see him walking in momentarily. He's a very self-confident guy.

KING: Very self-confident. And always you see him coming in there, the Gingrich mane, if you will, the white hair, the silver hair of Newt Gingrich coming.

They were well aware of the number of debates that was scheduled in this campaign. They always view that as a strength and they always view that, yes, he wouldn't have enough money. Yes, he wouldn't have people on the ground that everybody else said. But he views himself - well, he's proven himself to be the best communicator, the best debater in this field so far.

BLITZER: Certainly has. And, by the way, I want to remind our viewers you're going to see squiggly lines at the bottom of the screen. We've got a focus group of about 45,000 undecided Republicans in Jacksonville, Florida. That's where the next contest is, January 31st, the Republican primary in Florida.

And they've got a dial tester. They're going to be telling us what they like and what they don't like so much as far as what Newt Gingrich's remarks are concerned. So when you see those squiggly lines from men and from women, that's focus group.

And later, Tom Foreman, who is there with them, we're going to go speak with some of them, see if some of them have made up their minds based on what they heard tonight, what they saw tonight in South Carolina.

So you don't see him right there but I can assure you Calista Gingrich, Newt Gingrich, they are there. They are making their way in this crowd, toward the stage and he's getting ready to speak. John, you want to make a point.

KING: You know, it's amazing to look at just the changes. It's my seventh presidential career. All things are all - you know, the hand- held devices, the PDAs, the videos in there, everyone making their video - you can see him walking up.

Well, before he speaks, one other quick point. We talked about some Gingrich strengths among evangelicals, among Tea Party voters, among those who doubt Mitt Romney's Bain experience. This is where Speaker Gingrich is going to have to do better when he gets to Florida. There are more moderate Republicans.

Mitt Romney won among moderates in South Carolina tonight because Gingrich coming in second. If he wants to have success in a state like Florida, bigger, more diverse, less conservative than South Carolina, this is one area - can't call it quite a weakness. He came in quite second. But he needs to build here if he's going to beat Romney in a state that is more diverse.

BLITZER: He's taken out his note. No teleprompter for Newt Gingrich. Let's listen in to the Former Speaker of the House, the winner of the South Carolina Primary, Newt Gingrich.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK. OK. Let me first of all say thank you to everyone in South Carolina who decided to be with us in changing Washington.

Calista and I are particularly happy to have our daughters, our son- in-laws, my two chief debate coaches, Maggie and Robert, who are both right here. And we're delighted to have - my sisters are here, Robbie and Susan, just terrific.

I also want to recognize several people who were just extraordinarily important in South Carolina making this happen. Judge Billy and Deborah Wilkins just really took over and did a great job. My former colleague, former Congressman John Nappier is such a terrific class act. He did such a class act statewide putting things together.

House Majority Leader Kenny Bingam came on board and really helped us with the statewide network. Speaker Bobby Harrell was tremendous. We traveled the last several days together. Andre Bauer made a big difference. Vivian Wong was tremendous in helping us all across the state. Peter McCoy was remarkable.

And finally I just want to say we had a team on our staff who worked endless hours week after week. They did a great, great job. There are so many things, Calista and I have so many memories from so many parts of the state. Everybody, including people who by accident or misinformation were for the other candidates, but everybody was nice to us everywhere. And I just want to say that I think South Carolina showed southern hospitality as beautifully as anyplace we've been.

I also want to mention in particular General Livingston, who is a Congressional Medal of Honor Winner, who gave me the great honor in Yorktown of introducing me yesterday. And to a man of that courage, that patriotism and that dedication to freedom to come out and support us really meant a great deal. And everybody who went to the Yorktown, it was a remarkable evening and I'm just grateful to everybody for that moment of patriotism.


GINGRICH: That is a -- the biggest thing I take from the campaign in South Carolina is that it is very humbling and very sobering to have so many people who so deeply want their country to get back on the right track.


GINGRICH: And so many people who are so concerned about jobs, about medical costs, about the everyday parts of life and who feel that the elites in Washington and New York have no understanding, no care, no concern, no reliability and, in fact, do not represent them at all.


GINGRICH: In the two debates that we had here in Myrtle Beach and then in Charleston where people reacted so strongly to the news media, I think there was something very fundamental that I wish the powers that be in the news media would take seriously.

The American people feel that they have elites who have been trying for a half-century to force to us quit being American and become some kind of other system.


GINGRICH: And their reaction -- people completely misunderstand what's going on. It's not that I am a good debater. It is that I articulate the deepest felt values of the American people --


GINGRICH: -- you know, this is a remarkable system. What makes us different from virtually every other country in the world is that we are free. And because we're free, we can produce leadership from an amazing range of places.

Now sometimes that leadership is good. We once have an actor who made movies with chimpanzees. He turned out to be one of our greatest presidents, and ended up with the disappearance of the Soviet empire. (APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: We once had a peanut farmer nuclear physicist; he didn't turn out to be quite as good. But the genius of America is that you can come from any background. I watched tonight the fine speeches of the other three candidates on our side, and I was struck with how much they reflected the openness of the American system.

You know, Rick Santorum showed enormous courage in Iowa when he had no money, nobody covered him and he just kept campaigning. His --


GINGRICH: I rest my case. I mean, he has made an impact, right? I mean, here's a guy who articulates the values of social conservatism, who articulates the importance of manufacturing and who may have been as right about the dangers of Iran as anybody in this country in the last 10 years.


GINGRICH: And then as a further example of how wide open our system is, you have Dr. Ron Paul, who on the issue of money and the Federal Reserve has been right for 25 years.


GINGRICH: And while I disagree with him on many other things, there is no doubt that a lot of his critique of inflation, of fiat money and of the Federal Reserve is in fact absolutely the right direction and is something I can support strongly.

And finally, Governor Romney, with whom I disagree on many issues, is nonetheless a good example of America. He's hard working, he has been very successful, he has organized large systems, he did a terrific job at the Winter Olympics.

And the fact is if you look at the four of us, we are proof you can come from a wide range of backgrounds and in America you have a chance to try to make your case no matter what the elites think in New York and Washington.


GINGRICH: Well, you sort of now just captured the heart of this campaign. The fact is we want to run not a Republican campaign, we want to run an American campaign --


GINGRICH: -- because we are optimists about the future, because America has always been optimistic about the future, and we believe as our new sign, which just got made today, points out, that if we unleash the American people, we can rebuild the America that we love.

(APPLAUSE) GINGRICH: Now, I believe and Callista and I decided to run because we, after a year of conversation, concluded that this is the most important election of our lifetime. If Barack Obama can get re- elected after this disaster, right, just think how radical he would be in a second term. So I have a proposal. With your help, we are now moving on to Florida and beyond --


GINGRICH: -- and I want you to know that if -- and by the way, anyone here who knows anyone in Florida, please contact them by sometime tomorrow, OK?


GINGRICH: And my good friend, Luis Hasa (ph), knows many people in Florida, and I'm confident he'll have an impact. But if I do become your nominee -- and I think with your help I will become your nominee -- but with your help, together, if that happens, then it's all up to all of us to work to make it happen.

If that happens, then I will challenge President Obama to seven three- hour debates.


GINGRICH: To be fair, to be fair -- I don't want to you be disappointed, but I already have conceded that he can use a teleprompter if he wants to. After all, if you had to defend ObamaCare, wouldn't you want to be able to use a teleprompter?


GINGRICH: Now, there a number of key issues that we have to talk about with the president.


GINGRICH: I'm going to get there in a second.


GINGRICH: I believe this campaign comes down to economics, including jobs, economic growth, balancing the budget, the value of money, comes down to national security, what threatens us and what we have to do about it.

But the centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky.


GINGRICH: Well, you know, there's a lot to just doing that because the fact is what we are going to argue is that American exceptionalism, the American Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution, the American Federalist Papers, the Founding Fathers of America are the source from which we draw our understanding of America, he draws his from Saul Alinsky, radical left-wingers, and people who don't like the classical American.

And one of the issues -- one of the issues we're going to address head-on --


GINGRICH: She would be a great first lady and with your help, she will be a great first lady.


GINGRICH: One of -- one of the key issues -- and I'm prepared to take this straight at the president and, frankly, straight at the elite media, one of the key issues is the growing anti-religious bigotry of our elites.


And if you get a chance, if you go to, my campaign site, there's a 54-page paper there on the balance of power putting the judiciary back in its proper role and eliminating dictatorial religious bigots ,such as Judge Barry in San Antonio, who issued a ruling that if the students -- not only could the students not pray at their graduation, if they used the word benediction, the word invocation, the word God, asked the audience to stand or asked for a moment of silence, he would put the superintendent in jail.

Now we don't have speech dictatorship in America by anti-religious bigots, period.


GINGRICH: The second big theme, frankly, is one that every South Carolinian understands, it's jobs, economic growth, balancing the budget, having stable money. Let's be very clear -- and, again, this makes some of the elite media nervous.

President Obama has been historically the most effective food stamp president in American history.


GINGRICH: I worked with Ronald Reagan to create jobs, and 16 million jobs were created by the American people in the 1980s. I worked with Bill Clinton, a Democrat, to create jobs, and 11 million jobs were created by the American people during the four years that I was Speaker.

I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history, and I want to go into every neighborhood of every ethnic background in every part of the country and say to people very simply, if you want your children to have a life of dependency and food stamps, you have a candidate, it's Barack Obama. If you want your children to have a life of independency and paychecks, you have a candidate and it's Newt Gingrich and I'll bet you we have votes everywhere.


GINGRICH: Part of the job in the economy, frankly, is to shrink the power of Washington. I just talked tonight with Governor Rick Perry, who is deeply committed, and I was very generous for his endorsement this week. His passion is implementing the 10th Amendment. We are going to work with him to return power to the states, to local governments, to get it out of Washington, D.C.


GINGRICH: The one reason that I asked to you be with me and not just for me, if we shrink the Washington bureaucracy, we have to grow citizenship back home to fill the vacuum.

I'm also committed to getting back to a balanced budget and since I'm the only Speaker of the House in your lifetime to have helped create four consecutive balanced budgets, I think I can tell you, as president I will work very hard to get back to a balanced budget as rapidly as possible and then to run a surplus to pay down the debt, so no Chinese leverage exists on the United States by having our debt.


GINGRICH: Part of our long-term national security has to be having an American energy policy. I want America to become so energy independent that no American president ever again bows to a Saudi king.


GINGRICH: And let me give you an example of a common sense conservatism that solves problems. You have well over $29 billion of natural gas offshore. If -- and as president I will authorize on the very first day the development of it. That natural gas offshore will create jobs that in Louisiana average $80,000 apiece. In addition, it generates royalties.

Part of the royalties should be used to modernize the port of Charleston, which affects one out of every five jobs in South Carolina. But it's not -- it's not enough just to find the money. The Corps of Engineers current bureaucracy is so long and so stupid that they currently take eight years to study -- not to do the project, to study the project.

We fought the entire Second World War in three years and eight months. Now if you can beat Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Imperial Japan in three years and eight months, it is almost unimaginable that it now takes eight years to study the project.

So I want to fundamentally overhaul the entire federal government at every level to produce a modern, lean, effective federal government. (APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: Let me also say that the president's decision to veto the Keystone pipeline -- you know, you have to wonder how out of touch with reality this administration is.


GINGRICH: It's one thing to say that they can't play chess at the White House. It's another thing to say they can't play checkers at the White House. But if they can't play tic-tac-toe, the president says, no, we don't want you to build a pipeline from central Canada, straight down with no mountains intervening, to the largest petrochemical center in the world, Houston, so that we would make money on the pipeline, we'd make money on managing the pipeline, we'd make money on refining the oil and we'd make money in the ports of Houston and Galveston shipping the oil.

Oh, no, we don't want to do that because Barack Obama is taking care of his extremist left-wing friends in San Francisco. They think that will really stop the oil from getting out.

No, what Prime Minister Harper, who by the way is a conservative and pro-American, what he has said is he's going to cut a deal with the Chinese, and they'll build a pipeline straight across the Rockies to Vancouver. We'll get none of the jobs, none of the energy, none of the opportunity.

Now, an American president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership is truly a danger to this country.


GINGRICH: But it gets worse. Last Sunday the Saudis announced they were signing a deal with the Chinese to build nuclear energy facilities in Saudi Arabia. So the Saudis are now saying we so distrust the Obama administration, we'd rather rely on the Chinese.

The Iranians for two weeks taunt us with exercises aimed at closing the Straits of Hormuz, and the Obama administration's answer is to cancel military exercises with Israel because we don't want to provoke the Iranians? President Obama is a president so weak that he makes Jimmy Carter look strong.

Let me just say that I believe the debate we're going to have with President Obama over the next eight or nine months, the outlining of the two Americas, the America of the Declaration of Independence, the America of Saul Alinsky; the America of paychecks, the America of food stamps; the America of independence, the America of dependence; the America of strength in foreign policy, the America of weakness in foreign policy -- those two choices I believe will give the American people a chance to decide permanently whether we want to remain the historic America that has provided opportunity for more people of more backgrounds than any country in history, or whether, in fact, we prefer to become a brand-new secular, European-style bureaucratic socialist system. I agree with you. I'm running because Callista and I have looked at the future for Maggie and Robert and we decided, no, we're not going to go the route of Obama and these kind of radical ideas.


GINGRICH: So in order to carry out this great debate, to rally the American people to reasserting their belief in America, to winning the election decisively this fall, to profoundly changing Washington starting on day one, when, by the way, we abolish all the White House czars --


GINGRICH: -- to do that -- to do that we need to build on this victory by going to Florida. I need your help in reaching out to people in Florida, I need your help in finding anybody who believes in what we're doing and telling them to go to, just my first name, to sign up, to donate, to get involved.

We don't have the kind of money that at least one of the candidates has, but we do have ideas and we do have people and we have proved here in South Carolina that people power, with the right ideas, beats big money. And with your help we're going to prove it again in Florida. Thank you. Good luck and God bless you.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: All right. So there he is, Newt Gingrich, the winner of the South Carolina primary, speaking to his supporters, taking the high road, not going directly after his Republican rivals, but delivering, once again, a fierce attack against the President of the United States.

Newt Gingrich, by the way, will be a guest on Candy Crowley's "STATE OF THE UNION" tomorrow morning right here on CNN 9:00 am Eastern. All four candidates have now spoken. It's time to assess -- it's time to look ahead to the next big primary, which is going to be in Florida on January 31st -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, AC360: And clearly in the speech tonight, John, some of the themes he's going to be talking about over the next couple of days in Florida, aiming at elites in Washington, in the media and elsewhere.

JOHN KING, HOST, JOHN KING U.S.A.: And aiming at President Obama. Remember, early on in the month of this campaign, Mitt Romney, his rivals who'd be criticizing Romney on health care, criticizing Romney on this, talking about Republican red meat issues, and Mitt Romney would be talking about President Obama.

Newt Gingrich now believes he has the momentum going into Florida, and he's going to talk about the Paul campaign against President Obama. Very unifying speech, compliments Ron Paul, compliments Rick Santorum.

Lesser compliments to Mitt Romney, but at least a little bit of compliment for Mitt Romney. Then at the end, there, you hear the most important part. If you go to a conservative website in America tonight, you will see a Newt Gingrich ad asking for money. If you go to his website, you'll see an ad asking for money. He knows going into Florida, he has momentum.

Remember, when he was surging earlier, a couple months ago, when that first Newt Gingrich surge happened, he was leading in Florida. That's when the Romney super PAC went up, pounded him with ads.

Newt Gingrich knows starting in the morning -- the Romney ads are already up -- starting in the morning, he needs to get on TV in Florida if he -- he also knows if he can beat Mitt Romney in Florida, we have a very, very, very different Republican race than we thought we did 48 hours ago.

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, he also knows that what the voters in the state of South Carolina wanted overwhelmingly -- and you showed that in the exit polls -- is they want somebody who can take on Barack Obama.

And that is exactly what he did tonight. But it was kind of belittling in a way of Barack Obama saying, you know, it -- you know, he doesn't know how to play tic-tac-toe. He makes Jimmy Carter look strong. I mean, kind of dismissive and telling the voters, you know what? I'm the one who can take it to this guy.

DAVID GERGEN, POLITICAL ANALYST: He could sure use an editor.



GERGEN: He did go on a long time, but I must say that there was something about the way he talks. And I would be curious about the way our political panel thinks about this, that strikes me that he has got a much better potential for reaching blue-collar white voters than Mitt Romney does.

He speaks a language and he speaks in a certain vernacular, and there's a kind of a strength about him that I think has an appeal, that if -- that's so if I were the Obama White House, there are a lot of things about Newt Gingrich and all his baggage and everything like that, and we -- we're beginning to learn about that, but, boy, that sledgehammer approach in a country that's angry, I would think that's one issue you'd want to be concerned about.

BORGER: It seemed to really resonate, too. You know, yesterday, I was talking to Newt late in the afternoon. He was in Orangeburg (ph), which is where we were (inaudible) the highest unemployment in the state. There were several hundred people lining up for the sort of receiving line.

And he really said, look, here's what it is. If I want to say something that's red is blue, I say it's blue. And people believe me because I'm passionate. And he actually said. And, I mean, I thought that was -- you saw it across the state yesterday. Women voters who said I was voting for Mitt Romney, and then I saw Newt and he came out and he fought, and I know I have skeletons in my closet and I want someone who's going to fight and be strong and I'm now Newt all the way. That sort of force and passion is --

KING: He may focus a lot on the specifics, but if he can come up to the big picture after several mostly steady performances, Governor Romney has had two shaky debate performances in a row. Speaker Gingrich has had consistently strong performances, and I was on the receiving end of one of his anti-media attacks -- fair game. That's how it works in politics.

But a lot of Republican voters, they so dislike President Obama, whether it's on the policy issues or others, they so dislike him that they want to fight.

They want someone up there, and they think Mitt Romney might debate him well tactically, but not aggressively, not emotionally, not fiery. And Gingrich knows that and he's tapping into this sentiment in the grassroots Republican Party that wants somebody up on that stage who just rips into him.

COOPER: But in the rough and tumble of Florida in the days ahead, can he continue to focus -- can both men continue to focus on President Obama? Or they're going to have to -- they're going to have to focus on each other.


BORGER: They're going to have to focus on each other.

KING: And there are two more debates. Romney will be much more aggressive unless his -- unless he doesn't listen to his staff, he'll be much more aggressive in those debates. Also, it's a different state. It's more moderate. We're going to watch something fascinating over the next few days.

You're going to see more establishment rallying around Mitt Romney because they are afraid of Newt Gingrich. They're -- they don't like him, number one. They think he's unpredictable. They think he's erratic. They're also worried about the House and the Senate if Newt --


BORGER: It's very different. It's a very, very different state. I was looking at the Florida exit polls from 2008, only 27 percent of the people who voted in the Republican primary considered themselves as very conservative. How much was that this time?


BORGER: Much, much higher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten points or more. BORGER: Thirty-eight percent considered themselves moderate or liberal -- so, you know -- oh, it's 37 percent this time around. So by 10 points. You know, it's a different state. My question about Newt Gingrich is how well does he wear with voters, with Republican voters in a state like Florida, also with those all-important independent voters?

COOPER: We're going to check with Florida voters, Republicans right now who are still undecided, but who are watching Newt Gingrich speak tonight, watching all the candidates speak tonight, they're the people behind that dial test that you see in the bottom of your screen during the candidates' speeches. We're going to talk to them right after this break.


BLITZER: South Carolina voters remake the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

COOPER: Newt Gingrich seizes the momentum with the campaigns and now heads south to Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt Gingrich is South Carolina's choice.

GINGRICH: Thank you to everyone who decided to be with us in changing Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gives a major blow to Mitt Romney's campaign.

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a hard fight because there's so much worth fighting for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four Republicans went into this Southern brawl. Who will be left standing as the contest moves to Florida? The votes are in. South Carolina has spoken, and the biggest battleground yet is still ahead.