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Nevada Caucuses Coverage - 2300 Hour; Newt Gingrich Press Conference

Aired February 4, 2012 - 23:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. We want to welcome you to this special edition of the CNN NEWSROOM. We're only a few minutes away from Newt Gingrich getting ready to have a news conference in Las Vegas. He didn't win the Nevada caucuses. Mitt Romney, the decisive, clear winner in the Nevada caucuses.

But Newt Gingrich getting ready to presumably give us a better appreciation of his strategy moving forward. Let's take a look at the votes right now with 15 percent of the actual votes from the Nevada caucuses in. Mitt Romney way ahead with 47 percent to Newt Gingrich's 21 percent. But Ron Paul, very close with 20 percent. Rick Santorum 12 percent. There's a tight battle under way for second place in Nevada. Right now, Newt Gingrich slightly ahead of Ron Paul.

We're going to be hearing from Newt Gingrich. He's not giving a speech tonight, which would be a traditional moment, a traditional thing to do after a Nevada caucus like this, but he is going to have a news conference, and we're told he's going to outline some new strategy moving forward.

Our Brianna Keilar is over at Newt Gingrich headquarters at Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. What -- do we have any idea what he's going to say, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we do know is that Newt Gingrich has been working on a new strategy with his staff, and that is a strategy that we're expecting, sources tell CNN, to be more of a positive strategy. This may make you raise your eyebrows and kind of say well, that's quite a 180 because as soon as -- as recently as last night, you heard him just hammering on Mitt Romney, trying to tie him to the big banks, comparing him to President Obama, perhaps, you know, one of the biggest insults here out on the campaign trail for Republicans.

But sources tell CNN that Newt Gingrich has been meeting with his staff. What has he been doing? Because we know he didn't have a whole lot on his public schedule today. That's what he's been up to today. He met with them yesterday. He met with them today. He will continue to meet with his staff tomorrow and flesh out this new strategy going forward and a sign that he's going to come out tonight and continue to say that he's in this for the long haul, this strategy, a source tells CNN, is to move forward and continue to accumulate delegates all the way to the convention. So we are expecting Newt Gingrich. They're running pretty much on time here, we're told, to be out here very shortly. We know he's very nearby this ballroom here at the Venetian Hotel. And we'll be looking to see just how much of the strategy he unveils here today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So he's going to be giving, I assume, an opening statement then taking questions from reporters.

Brianna, you will be there, as well.

KEILAR: Right.

BLITZER: Even as we await Newt Gingrich and his news conference and potentially some new elements of a strategy, there's still one special caucus under way, it's called the religious caucus that actually is under way in Las Vegas right now.

Paul Steinhauser is standing by.

I take it it's getting pretty animated where you are, Paul. Tell our viewers what's going on.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It sure is, Wolf. As you mentioned, this caucus is for people like Orthodox Jews and Seventh Day Adventists, too, because of religious reasons couldn't take part earlier today. So what started about a half an hour late, about half an hour go because there's such a long line of people waiting to get in.

What's going on right now? People are allowed to speak for two minutes about the candidate they are supporting. We had six people. They go by alphabetical order, Wolf. So Gingrich first, we had about six people speak for Gingrich and now we have people speaking for Ron Paul. We've had about 10 people so far speak for Ron Paul.

You could hear it right now they're asking if there's anybody else that wants to talk about Ron Paul. We've had some animated people here expressing their support for Congressman Paul. Very boisterous crowd right now, Wolf. But it looks like we're done with the Ron Paul people and I guess Romney will be up next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And then at some point they just will vote, they'll actually write their preferences on ballots or do they raise their hands? What's the procedure there, Paul?

STEINHAUSER: It's a ballot. This is just like the caucuses that we're earlier today here in Clark County. Those caucuses were at 9:00 this morning, this is the final one as you mentioned. Yes, when we're all done, there will be ballots handed out and the people will vote and those will be tabulated and sent to the Clark County Commission -- the Republican Party office and will be added to the final vote total -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, you know what I want to do, Paul? I want to just listen in a little bit, get a sense, a little flavor of what's going on at this special caucus. This is a Ron Paul supporter, I suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- on foreign policy in general, I know some of us want to be somewhere and others of us just want to come home. But war -- you know, being all of the world costs a lot money and we don't have any. And I promise you that we will have to come home very soon regardless of what your stance is. Because we just don't have the money to support this stuff. And I'd much rather do it on our own terms than be forced into barracks because of bankruptcy, you know, five, 10, 50 years from now, whatever it may be.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit about sound economics. I don't really have any analogy for you, guys, but it's really laughable that we, you know, just continue to spend all this money year after year, when we just -- we don't have any. And everyone thinks that it's different than any individual because we're a government, we can raise, but eventually this is all going to catch up with us.

And government spending itself is a tax. It doesn't matter what any candidate tells you his minimum tax or his maximum tax rate is going to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the government spends money, you're being taxed whether it's through direct taxes or through inflation, which crushes the loan classes. And inflation will come, I assure you, it has to come. It's just mathematics. It's already here. It's going to become even stronger if we don't stop this.

Lastly, real quick, on the Gingrich thing, yes, those four years he was a speaker, the budget was balanced, and yet $1 trillion were added to the debt. That sounds like pretty typical Washington --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time is up, sir.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's not a possibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Anyone else? There was a gentleman here, this guy was -- yes, right there was -- and then, and please, obviously I'm not trying to stop people from speaking, I just want to remind everybody, please, if you have -- if you're going to repeat something that has been said before, we're going to ask you to pass and let somebody else have an opportunity who has something different to say. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. First I want to say I'm voting for Ron Paul. I think all four GOP candidates are incredible men and I'm very honored to be following all of them during the debates. But what I've heard is people describe themselves to Ronald Reagan. And Reagan did an interview with "Reason" magazine in July 1975 and --

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said that the heart of conservatism is libertarianism. And that was years following after Perry Goldwater. And what I would like to see us get to a limited government, a sound dollar, strong free markets and free trade. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Is there anybody who has something to add that was not said before? OK, these two gentlemen had their hands up first and then we'll come to you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, everybody. First and foremost, I'd like to thank you enough for caring enough to be here tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I work as a poker dealer and floor man, and I would like to let you all know that for those of that do work for tips, Ron Paul considers tips to be a gift, and not income, subject to taxation. So do you support all those who work for tips? Ron Paul perhaps.

Also to stand with the American people, Ron Paul is going to accept a salary of $39,660 a year. He's one of us, not one of them. Thank you, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This gentleman here. OK. And back -- yes, that gentleman there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll make this real quick. When I came in, somebody interviewed me and when they asked if I was a Paul supporter, I said I was. And they said, that makes sense. The young people are behind Paul. I would like to explain that I'm a middle age man, I'm facing retirement. I appreciate the statement about being young and I wanted to really quickly say that Ron Paul in my opinion is not the young people's candidate, he's America's candidate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Is there anybody else who has somebody different to add? Yes, ma'am. Nathan, this lady up there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I would like to speak on behalf of Dr. Ron Paul. I believe he's the only candidate that would be good for the whole world, and not just Europeans, not just south of the border, not just anyone, but because he believes in peace and he puts the action to his words if you give him a chance. He understands the history of this country. And he more reflects the ideals of this country. Never mind that in this country there was slavery, there was -- there are wars that shouldn't have been started. Whether he really loves Israel in his part or Jewish people or other people, or Muslims, it doesn't matter.

In America, we can believe what we believe. But we need to leave each other alone and stay out of each other's bedrooms, stay out of each other's countries, and telling other people in the world what to do. We need to have peace, we need trade freely and we need to have sound money. Another reason he came to Washington was because Nixon de- anchored the dollar from gold. And he understands what really causes the booms and busts and what is stealing our old folks' money in their fixed savings account.

He is the only that understands the economics. And I'm sorry, Newt is not a great historian. He's a revisionist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This young lady there standing up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, everybody. My name is Kathy. I've been here in Las Vegas over 30 years. I work in the childcare industry, and every day I look at these children and know that their futures are in trouble. And Ron Paul, I honestly feel in my heart and my soul, from making my own mind up and not watching the media where they've cut it and chopped it, and -- I mean I've looked at some of the debates and when they go on Ron Paul, the lighting is dimmer, sometimes they don't even allow him to talk, they don't even get him into the conversations.

It's just hideous how the media has been handling this entire thing. Ron Paul is for the people. He is for our rights. He is for our freedom. I think that if we continue the way we are and vote for anybody else, I don't think half the people realize how many freedoms we have lost already and how many more we're going to lose.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron Paul is for the people, and I really honestly believe that he will get something done. He will bring this country back to where it belongs, and vote for Ron Paul. And I also have to say about the government, my son was also in there doing the vaccinations. They were inoculating him with stuff, they wouldn't even tell him what it was, having to fill out forms twice a week saying what he felt like, using him as guinea pigs. They're not even telling them, really giving him an option to opt out.

Something has to be done with our government and the way they're using our own men as guinea pigs.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman back, and Nathan, down here. And then in the back over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we all know where Ron Paul stands on the fiscal policy, on foreign policy, on the federal government. But I would like to say is that when I think of the United States, I don't think of George Bush. I don't think of Barack Obama. When I ask my friends overseas what do they think of when I say United States, that's what they say, Barack Obama and George Bush. When I think of the United States, I think of Idaho, I think of Florida, I think of Arizona. And I think you want a man who is a proponent for state's rights and if you think Nevada should be ruled by Nevadans, that's Ron Paul.

I don't think --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that somebody in Washington, D.C. should be telling people from Arizona if their laws are right or wrong. I don't think that lawyers from New York should be telling somebody in other states what they should be voting for. I think if you want Nevada to make its own laws and stand by them and not have the federal government bring it down, I think that's Ron Paul.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is Bill. We've heard about Speaker Gingrich being a student of history. I think if we all were a student of history, we would realize that we are very, very quickly heading down the same road as the Roman Empire did. And I don't want to go down that road. I am sick, sick, sick of government spending, regulation, taxation, and really, really nonsense to support a few people. And -- so that's why I'm supporting Ron Paul. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lady back up here. Nathan, OK, somebody get her a microphone. She's been waiting a bit. And them him, and again, I want to emphasize if you -- if you, please, if you have something that has basically said before, please pass.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Isabelle Klein (ph), and I want to say, first of all, the Republican Party is the party of the republic. It's the party of the people, and it's for the people. And it's the party that supports the constitution 1,000 percent, unlike like the people we have right now in government that need to get out of government. And that's first and foremost.

If we could vote for people that would serve in different positions in government, I think that would be great. If we could take the jobs that they would fill in the cabinet, I would vote for Ron Paul today to do our budget for us and get us out of this financial mess that we're in. But I don't think that Ron Paul is the guy to lead the whole country. He's the guy to lead us out of financial mess. He's not the guy to lead us out of the whole mess.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This gentleman here. Please -- no, you need to speak from where you're at please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Thank you for allowing me to address you today. I want to bring up a couple brief points that I'm surprised have not yet already been addressed. First of all, I want to say that, you know, Ron Paul is truly the number one friend of Israel and true Israeli independence, and you know the proof is in the pudding. In the early 1980s when Israel decided to bomb the Iraqi nuclear facilities, you may remember that, the United States Congress voted to condemn that action. Almost unanimously.

There was one lone no vote and that was Dr. Ron Paul.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only -- not only did Dr. Paul vote against it, he stood on the floor of the House at that time. He stood on the floor and told the Congress what they were doing was a shame, and that what they were doing condemning to violate that action of Israeli independence and Israeli sovereignty was a shame. And that they should be ashamed of themselves for following a U.N. condemnation.

Ron Paul is the number one consistent vote against the U.N., and the ever-increasing role that international bodies are taking in our sovereignty as well as Israeli sovereignty. And I also want to address one point which I'm very surprised has not been given on the floor here tonight. That is, Ron Paul is the only candidate, the only candidate with a plan. It's a plan to cut $1 trillion from the federal budget the first year.

It would balance the budget by the third year and he would fix our fiscal mess. The plan does all that without cutting a penny from seniors or a penny from veterans or a penny from legitimate national defense. Defense of this country not as nation building, not acting as the world's policeman. Not spending over $800 million a day in Afghanistan to defend the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan while we let our borders say as porous as Swiss cheese.

Ron Paul is truly a man of integrity and consistency and honesty. He has a record unparalleled in government and perhaps a century. And that record, a record which you can fully embrace, fully embrace the entire election cycle --

BLITZER: All right. We're going to break away from this special caucus in Las Vegas. Newt Gingrich getting ready to hold his news conference. Let's listen in.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We thought on Super Bowl eve that instead of the standard rally we'd actually share with you all for a little while. And let me just start and say, there's one story that came out today somewhere that I just want to put to rest, hopefully for the next few months.

I am a candidate for president of the United States. I will be a candidate for president of the United States. We will go to Tampa. We have over 160,000 donors, 97 percent of whom have given less than $250. We have an obligation to them to stand up for their values, their concerns, and the reason they've gotten involved.

We will leave on Monday to go to Denver. And then to Minneapolis. And then we'll go on to I think four cities in Ohio and we will continue to campaign all the way to Tampa. I think actually this week several things have clarified themselves that are very helpful. Unlike Governor Romney, I care very deeply about helping the poorest Americans. I believe that the "Declaration of Independence's" commitment that our Creator endowed us with the right to pursue happiness extends to the poorest of Americans and I think one of the great challenges to conservatism is to turn the safety net into a trampoline to give people an opportunity to achieve real status, earning a living, buying a house, having a decent future.

So I'm not comfortable, as Governor Romney said he was, with simply allowing people to languish in the safety net. And I think that that's a very fundamental difference between the two of us.

I also believe that his proposal for indexing minimum wage is a bad idea, which will increase unemployment, and every evidence we have is it will increase unemployment. And if you're in a state like Nevada, which -- Nevada which has some 32 percent teenage unemployment, if you're in a country which has 43 percent black teenage unemployment, maybe you shouldn't be in fact suggesting a capricious increase on an automatic basis of a minimum wage which kills jobs and stops access for young people.

So there's some very big differences evolving in this campaign as we move forward. I also believe that the vast majority of Republicans across the country are going to want an alternative to a Massachusetts moderate who has in his career been pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase and who ranks third from the bottom in creating jobs in the four years he was governor.

So I suspect this debate will continue for a long time. Our commitment is to seek to find a series of victories which by the end of the Texas primary will leave us about a parody with Governor Romney and from that point forward to see if we can't actually win the nomination. Tonight, he will do reasonably well. This is one of his best states. It is a very heavily Mormon state, and a state which he carried in -- in 2008.

I think that we have early returns. We don't know yet how it's going to end up. Well, last time around Ron Paul was in second place. Any time we're in a caucus state, Dr. Paul has a substantial advantage. I think I will do better than John McCain did three years ago. We will get some delegates here. Obviously we'd like to get more. But we're very happy to be competing here and we're going to move on to compete first in Maine, Minnesota, Colorado. Vote early, early voting has already begun in Ohio and in Arizona.

And we'll be competing later this month in Arizona and in Michigan and we'll go on to Super Tuesday and then beyond that. So I just wanted to sort of set that so all of you could relax. We could -- what happens is every primary day or caucus day, the Romney headquarters in Boston sends out the rumor that they believe I will withdraw, which of course their greatest fantasy.

I'm not going to withdraw. I'm actually pretty happy with where we are, and I think the contrast between Governor Romney and me is going to get wider and wider and clearer and clearer over the next few weeks. And so I look forward very much to opportunities to debate him. Opportunities to draw the contrast and opportunities to compete for votes. I'll be glad to take your questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) continue a lot, you know, in public places. What --

GINGRICH: Did you miss me?



GINGRICH: Thank you. I feel good. I was worrying that you would not have noticed.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What kind of conversations took place and what some of the conclusions that's been out there?

GINGRICH: Well, we got together for a very practical reason. I was surprised by the degree to which the establishment has closed ranks and made quite clear that they're desperate over the prospect of a Gingrich presidency. I was surprised by George Soros, cheerfully explaining in Davos that he was happy with either Obama or Romney, because it didn't make much difference in policy, it was just a change of personality.

And I was surprised at "The New York Times" article on the Romney campaign's decision that they had to destroy Newt Gingrich. So we stopped and said all right, if this -- if this is the objective reality of the campaign, the entire establishment will be against us, the scale of Wall Street money starting with Goldman Sachs will be amazing, and the campaign will be based on things that aren't true.

Then how do you define the campaign for the average American so they get to choose, do they want two George Soros-approved candidates in the general election or would they like a conservative versus one George Soros-approved candidate?

And we frankly have spent the last four days laying out a campaign for the next few months in which, although we will be outspent, we think we can communicate through the clutter and we think we'll be able to draw decisively for the American people how big the difference is.

You know Reagan had this challenge with John Conley. Goldwater had this challenge with Nelson Rockefeller. We've had past Republican campaigns in which the establishment had massive financial advantages. Reagan lost five straight primaries before he began winning in 1976.

I'm pretty comfortable that when you come down to it, as we go state to state to state, a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase, George Soros-approved candidate of the establishment probably is not going to do very well. And I'm happy to have that debate with Governor Romney and I will debate him one-on-one anywhere, any time that he's willing to stand up and explain his record without the kind of gimmicks he used in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, you seem to be looking past --


GINGRICH: No, no. Right here.


GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE). Everybody will get a chance. The Super Bowl is not until 3:29.


GINGRICH: That is not option for (INAUDIBLE). Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There are reports that Sheldon Adelson has been meeting with Mitt Romney and has said that he will, you know, help him financially?



GINGRICH: I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you -- would that bother you if he is --

GINGRICH: First of all, I think what he's quoted as saying is if I had dropped out he would be willing to support Governor Romney. And I will ask him myself. If the choice is Obama and Romney, then there's no choice. I think that's how -- that's how Sheldon Adelson feels.

Look, Sheldon's primary driving force is the survival of the United States and Israel in the face of an Iranian nuclear weapon. And compared to Barack Obama, virtually anybody is a better candidate. So that doesn't matter me at all. Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Ty. Mr. Speaker, you seem to be looking past the February states and really aiming at Super Tuesday. How much of your focus in the next couple of weeks is going to be on Super Tuesday states? You're obviously spending a lot of time in Ohio this week. Can you lay out what the next month will mean in terms of a Super Tuesday strategy?

GINGRICH: Well, one of the things that some of you, as you keep score, you don't quite follow me on is I actually think we're a national system in terms of information flow. So I think if -- you know, if I'm on "Hannity" or if I happen to be in Associated Press, to take an example, or if I'm on one of the networks or even in "The New York Times," that in fact it reaches the whole country.

So I run a campaign which twice now has made me the frontrunner and I suspect will again by the Texas primary or so, that really is a national campaign. I think next week this coming week, we're in Colorado, Minnesota, and Ohio. And then we do CPAC in Washington. I think the follow Monday we start three days in California. And -- you know, so we're going to be all over the place again and again and again. But we intend to compete in every single state in the country, and I think you can count on us being competitive in every single state in the country. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Nancy Pelosi came out and said that she stands with her fellow Catholics in favor of President Obama's decision on the (INAUDIBLE).

GINGRICH: She stands with her fellow Catholics.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That's what she said. I was talking about the --

GINGRICH: Her fellow Catholics meaning Archbishop Dolan, the entire hierarchy, every bishop, every priest? Those are her fellow Catholics?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That's who she says.

GINGRICH: I just -- well, you might go and ask the Archbishop Dolan how and whether or not he thinks the term "fellow Catholic" applies to Archbishop Dolan.

Yes, sir?


GINGRICH: Let me go back for a second to say to you, the Obama administration has declared war on religious freedom in this country. And people need to understand that. This is a decision so totally outrageous, and then the illustration of such radical secular ideology, that I believe the entire hierarchy will oppose it every inch of the way. It has nothing to do with specific details. It has to do with whether or not the government of the United States can tell a religious institution you must give up your religious beliefs.

Now that's what Obamacare has come to mean. The right of a Washington politician and a Washington bureaucrat to tell you that you may no longer worship God the way you want unless you're willing to pay a penalty for doing so. And I think as the average American comes to understand that, they will be repulsed at the arrogance and the anti- religious bigotry of the Obama administration.

Yes, back there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, have you considered also that perhaps voters just aren't buying what you're selling? I mean you've been on the ball now in five states, you've won one but you've lost four. And you also talk about debates, but you've had 18 of them and generally you've been considered to have done well in them, and still it's not showing up in the polls.


GINGRICH: I'm not going to defend the outcome in a state where I was outspent 5-1. And I suggest you're sophisticated enough you understand that the idea of taking a state where the other guy spent five times as much money, and many of his ads were false, as described by both the "Wall Street Journal" and "National Review", that maybe that's not a very accurate measure. When it was an entirely positive campaign, up through mid-December, I was ahead by 12 points in the Gallup.

I want to come back, again, I was actually ahead in Gallup about a week ago. So I think in a few more weeks I'll be ahead in Gallup again.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is that just ignoring the reality of the campaign? I mean he has gone negative and it's working, and you know --

GINGRICH: Right. So throughout the campaign, to use your words, he has gone negative, and it is working. And what I'm asserting to you is over time, I don't believe the American people will approve of a campaign which actually suppresses turnout. I think it's amazing, if you all look at Florida, every county I carried in Florida had an increased turnout. Every county Romney carried in Florida had a decreased turnout.

Now that's just sober, every Republican in the country, if the only way that Romney is suppressing turnout, how is he going to -- how is he going to do that in the fall if the only way he wins is outspending somebody 5-1? How is that going to apply to a campaign against Obama who is going to outspend him?

I just suggest here that there are underlying factors in this race, and I'm quite happy to continue campaigning, and I'm kind of mildly amazed at the news media's desperation for finding some excuse to say, wouldn't you please quit this evening?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) successful going forward, Mitt Romney is still in the path the way his record now. (INAUDIBLE).

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I'm not sure that Mitt Romney is in my head. I mean think that's an interesting analysis on your part. I'm sure that with a psychiatric degree that will get you a tremendous opportunity to have new clients. I think there's a clear contrast. I think that the clear contrast is really important. And I think that over time we're going to drive home that clear contrast in a way which will be enormously to his disadvantage.

I think the American people want somebody who is genuinely conservative, who is prepared to change Washington. Just take -- take his one comment this week about not caring about the poor, which we know was a mistake. Just as common about liking to fire people was a mistake. Et cetera.

I would suggest to you that a conservative who cares about the poor, a conservative who cares about every American of every background, a conservative who says, why don't we rethink the entire safety net so it becomes a trampoline, which is not me. It's Jack Kemp. It's a whole range of people who've been working on these ideas for 25 years.

And as Charles Krauthammer said, Romney's comments this week were a sign he doesn't quite understand conservative philosophy. Now I think that's important for the country, for Republicans, for conservatives to think about. Nominating one more moderate, like 1996 when we lost badly, like 2008 when we lost badly, I don't think that's a very good future for the Republican Party.

And because it's vital to beat Barack Obama, I don't think it's a very good future for the country.

Yes, sir?


GINGRICH: Yes. I was just -- I was surprised. Go back and look at the second debate. I've never had a person stand next to me in a civil engagement and be a substantially dishonest as he was. I mean go look at what he said. You have Larry Sabato in the middle of the debate tweeting that Romney was being factually false.

Now I didn't have any good mechanisms, I will by the next debate. I didn't have any good mechanisms to turn to somebody who was being blatantly dishonest to the entire country as a candidate to the president. If you can't tell the truth as a candidate for the president, which is by the way a charge that has been made by McCain, by Fred Thompson, by Huckabee.

If you can't tell the truth as a candidate for president, how can the country possibly expect you to lead as president? And I frankly was stunned. I make no bones about this. In the second Florida debate, I had nothing to say, because I had nothing to say because I had never before seen a person who I thought of as a serious candidate for president be that fundamentally dishonest. And it was blatant and it was deliberate and he knew he was doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you plan on dealing with that?

GINGRICH: I will -- I don't want to tell you now. Please, Jeff, you have to give us a few trade secrets. Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned that Romney (INAUDIBLE)

GINGRICH: No. I think this is a state he won last time. I think we will do better than John McCain did last time. And John McCain went on to a reasonably good success. Yes, ma'am?


GINGRICH: I haven't seen -- I haven't seen the reports. I have no idea what they're referring to. And I'll be happy to look at them.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Last night you said you're ashamed of the negativity in this campaign. First, have you engaged yourself in any negativity in this campaign?

GINGRICH: Of course. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And are you willing to commit to give up any negativity for the remainder of --

GINGRICH: You can't unilaterally disarm in a world where somebody is willing to be as aggressive. What?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If you're ashamed of it, why not?

GINGRICH: Because as you know, as a realistic person, you might as well withdraw from the campaign. Now that's a fact.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You don't think you could win this campaign with a positive -- purely positive?

GINGRICH: No. I tried that -- I think if you were with me in Iowa saw it. I stayed relentlessly positive in Iowa and lost 22 points. When we were in a totally positive campaign, I was beating Romney by huge margin.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So if you're ashamed of it but --


GINGRICH: I think it's terrible -- you know, because I think it's terrible that the American system is reduced to negative ads, some of them false. I wish it wasn't happening, and I think we would be better serving our children and grandchildren if it wasn't happening. But it's a fact. It is a fact. And unfortunately it's a fact and if you're not willing to stand and fight, then you have to get out of the race. And I think that's a very sad comment. Yes, ma'am?

KEILAR: Some sources have suggested that you've decided you want to go more positive in the tone, but that doesn't really seem to match your news conference. So is that true and what do you want to see about the tone moving forward?

GINGRICH: Well, I think we're going to make a whole series of positive speeches. And again, I'm perfectly happy to talk about the idea of turning the safety net into a trampoline. I'm perfectly happy to talk about ideas we have for creating a much better future in terms of tax cuts and less regulation.

I gave an entire speech last night at a local church, which was a positive statement about American exceptionalism and the nature of America. And I'm very happy to do that. I also predict to you that it is relatively harder to get your profession to cover totally positive speeches. So I can give hours and hours of totally positive speeches. Now that doesn't necessarily mean they'll show up anywhere.

KEILAR: Is it positive -- Newt, if I may follow, is it positive about -- is it a positive message about America's future but negative about Mitt Romney? Is that the plan?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the point is, there is a positive future for America if we elect a conservative, and I'm happy to talk about why that's true and I'm happy to talk about why I think it's very, very hard for somebody who invented Romneycare to be part of that future.

Yes, ma'am?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The article that mistakenly said that Trump would endorse you, do you think that was (INAUDIBLE) anyway, and are you hoping to find other endorsement?

GINGRICH: I mean I couldn't understand those articles when they came out because nobody I knew thought he was going to endorse me. So we all thought it was kind of weird. And those of you who wrote those articles ought to go back to their sources and ask why they misinformed you. But it's a free country.

Look, there are few people better at manipulating the press than Donald Trump and he proved it once again. You know, I -- you have to admire the sheer -- yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You cheered the fact that you don't use political consultants in your campaign, the explanation that we've gotten many times is that you are the brains behind in this, the machine behind your campaign. You talked about not responding quickly enough to Governor Romney. Do you think that if you would've had consultants, it would have been different and are you looking at adding consultants moving forward?

GINGRICH: No. It wouldn't have been. First of all, how is a consultant going to train you in advance and say to you in advance -- I mean until I saw "The New York Times" article about the discussion they had last Sunday morning, it hadn't occurred to me that you would have the level of ruthlessness and the level of dishonesty we saw last week. And I've been around a long time and have been through a fair number of campaigns and a fair number of fights.

And the language in that article is startling and I think frankly, a break with the American tradition.

Yes, sir? What?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it fair to say you are running your campaign and you are your own campaign manager?

GINGRICH: Well, no, I think Michael Crow is the campaign manager. We have a lot of very smart people, but it's fair to say that when it comes to what the candidate does and what the candidate says, that I bear full responsibility. I don't get talking points, I don't get coaching in a sense that apparently Governor Romney did until they fired the guy who was coaching him, which I think is by the way pretty bizarre.

I mean here you have a guy who comes in and does a pretty good job. The only two debates Romney has done well he was coached by this guy and they fire him? It's just kind of weird. You're the last question. Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You talked about the difficulties in running a campaign. (INAUDIBLE). Reports are coming out that your campaign still have $600,000 in debt. Can you (INAUDIBLE) some finances --

GINGRICH: I don't understand where that report came from because it doesn't fit our internal numbers and it doesn't fit, you know, I mean, some clever person went back and jury-rigged their interpretation of the last 30 days.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You talk about running (INAUDIBLE), how about --

GINGRICH: Well, that's the one -- that's the one state we frankly messed up in. And I've been pretty honest about that. You know. We did the wrong thing, hired the wrong person, it didn't work. But we'll be in 49 states and the territories. And we'll be very, very competitive in all of them.

Listen, I hope you all have a great Super Bowl. Take a few hours off from politics. Try to enjoy life. Thank you very much.


BLITZER: All right. If you thought that there was going to be a softer, milder Newt Gingrich, forget about it. Newt Gingrich making it absolutely, positively clear. Hold on a second.

GINGRICH: Forget all this other junk. OK? Paul Lubbers is my son- in-law who's from Sheboygan who for Christmas gave my daughter one share of Packer stock and I (INAUDIBLE) one share. We had a serious conference call, and we concluded that we should be for the team that beat the Pack. Now it's painful, but I'm for the Giants, period. There you go.


BLITZER: All right. Look at the head days for the New York Giants as oppose to the New England Patriots, we'll see if that makes any difference. All right. But he made it clear right at the top, there had been rumors circulating throughout much of the day that perhaps, perhaps Newt Gingrich might think of dropping out, withdrawing from this presidential contest. Well, he made it absolutely, positively clear right from the start he's not going anywhere. He's in this race until the bitter, bitter end. He's especially looking forward to Super Tuesday on March 6th and then moving forward to Texas and beyond. Absolutely, positively staying in this race.

Newt Gingrich also not backing down, very, very tough in criticizing Mitt Romney, the winner of the Nevada caucuses, lumping him in with President Obama as a George Soros favored candidate. Strong words from any Republican candidate.

We're going to stay on top of this.

Soledad, if there was any doubt about where Newt Gingrich was going, forget about it.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I think the only surprise there was the Giants. You know there was also a rumor, of course, that it was going to be a new strategy in terms of what he was thinking about delegate wise. Also it was going to be the kinder, gentler, moving forward in -- rumors all because none of that happened.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But here's the thing, actually, correct me if I'm wrong, if you guys disagree, he was kinder to the media. He was very charming to the press. He was engaging to the press. He was still attacking Mitt Romney, calling him fundamentally dishonest, his debate was full of gimmicks. And -- you know, you can't unilaterally disarm. But Newt Gingrich in this press conference was very warm and open.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I can't remember a national candidate who is not only so ambitious for the office but is so driven by personal hatred.



BORGER: To Romney.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be amazing.

GERGEN: Right. Yes.

O'BRIEN: And really you get the sense the reaping what was sewn in the negative ads months ago, it is exactly what --


BORGER: It's not going away.

GERGEN: He was -- this is a blood feud that goes back I think to Iowa.

O'BRIEN: You could feel it when it's hot.

GERGEN: He feels he was taken down, he was taken down unfairly, and by god he's going to bring Mitt down.

O'BRIEN: All right. We've got to take a short break. We're -- they're actually handing out those ballots at the special caucus. We're going to know the results of that caucus very soon. Of course short break. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Take a look at this shot. They're collecting those ballots in the special caucus that's taking place in Las Vegas. You'll remember they had to wait until after sundown for this particular caucus so that Seventh Day Adventists and also observing Jews and really anybody else who couldn't make the other caucuses would have an opportunity to caucus. So they are close to being able to count those ballots. We're watching that for you, of course.

Let's get right to our contributors. What do you think of the kindler, gentler Newt Gingrich?


WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Can we start with saying obviously -- earlier I said he might take a softer tone next month, let me say I was very wrong. That was an hour-long press conference where he invoked George Soros, slammed Donald Trump, said poor me, and called Mitt Romney a liar over and over. He's burned the village. No women and children will be spared. This is attack.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: A friend of mine texted me and said that the new Newt motto is to elbow for February then storm the continent for Super Tuesday. He is -- this is Mitt Romney's worst nightmare.


ERICKSON: You have a candidate who was conveying that he would rather beat Mitt Romney than be president of the United States. And there are a majority of Republicans still who agree with him on that.

O'BRIEN: So you think the strategy there is, I'm going to take out Mitt Romney, and not I want to be president, but I'm going to destroy him.


ERICKSON: To take the path to be president is to take out Mitt Romney, you take out Mitt Romney, whether or not you get on the path of president is a different topic.

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know for the last few weeks, I've been calling Newt that Chucky character in those horror films?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I've noticed.

MARTIN: His new name has to be Pyro from "The X Men." Because -- he wants to burn the entire joint down. First of all, what got me was he is still mad he got his butt kicked in the debate.

O'BRIEN: He referred to several --

MARTIN: I mean he said he's going, you know, I had no mechanism to respond. How about your mouth? That's how you do it in a debate. I mean he is so -- and then he eludes to the Gingrich -- to the Romney camp firing the debate coach who helped Mitt Romney. I'm like, Newt, suck it up, he kicked your behind in the debate, move on. He literally cannot handle getting beat in a debate. It's amazing. MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGY: There were so many contradictions in this press conference. He was very angry, absolutely. He focused on Mitt Romney. In fact, a Republican friend of mine e-mailed me and he was like, instead of Contract with America, it's contract against Mitt Romney. And essentially, and Gloria talked about this earlier, he was very charming to the elite media that he hates.


CARDONA: Right. Exactly. He was sucking up to them.

O'BRIEN: John Avlon is at Romney headquarters.

Erick Erickson says this is Mitt Romney's worst nightmare. Do you think that's true?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, the more Newt Gingrich goes on, that does create a problem because there's still, as Erick pointed out, there's still that majority of the Republican Party that seems to want someone other than Mitt Romney to be their nominee.

And one of the things Newt Gingrich does very well is give very loud voice to their frustrations. There's another trend as well that I think should be keeping the Romney camp up and the Republican Party in general. That turnout is down in every state this cycle except South Carolina. That does speak to an enthusiasm gap when confronted with the current candidates. That's a real problem for Republicans, as well down the road.

O'BRIEN: All right, John Avlon, I'm going to go over here to chat with you, guys.

You know, it's interesting to see is that in some ways it feels like Mitt Romney wasn't able to close the deal and now he's sort of reaping that, as well. Because he couldn't close the deal, he's got Santorum, who actually gave, I thought, a pretty good speech earlier today, and he's got Newt Gingrich who's given this angry, focused message to journalists and he's now also, you know, with another front, trying to deal with President Obama.

BORGER: You know, I don't think we should expect him to walk away, though. I mean honestly these are people who've got super PACs with money. There's no incentive to leave. If they're still raising money. And if Newt Gingrich is as personally hostile to Mitt Romney as he seems to be, and in fact, talking about the suppressed turnout that he said, you know, Romney is suppressing the turnout. Well, what does that say about a general election?

So this is Romney's nightmare, because what he's doing is saying, you know, folks, you want somebody who's electable. Look at our exit -- entrance polls tonight. You want someone who's electable, but guess what? He is not getting people out to vote and what do you think that's going to do in the general?

GERGEN: Soledad, my sense is that there's a disconnect between what Newt is saying and the reality out there in the field. He's sort of assuming, and maybe Erick disagrees with this. He's assuming that there's an army out there waiting for him to mobilize them and to take on Romney. My sense is that increasingly a lot Republicans are saying we may not like Romney very much, but he is a guy who's electable and they're moving toward him, not away from him. And that that army that Newt is counting on isn't out there.

O'BRIEN: They are counting -- hang on, they're counting ballots in the special election. We're going to be able to update you on what's happening there in just a little bit. We have to take a short break. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.


BLITZER: All right. Welcome back. They're still collecting the final ballots over at that special caucus in Las Vegas. These were for observant Jews, Seventh Day Adventists who didn't want to actually write or participate in a caucus on the Sabbath. They were waiting for sundown in Las Vegas. We've heard the speeches now from the various supporters of these four candidates. Now they've actually gone ahead and voted.

We're going to get the results. Once we get those results, we'll get the results of all Clark County which is the county where Las Vegas is, Anderson. The biggest county in -- in Nevada. I think, John King, about 70 percent of the people of Nevada live in Clark County. Once we get that, this 43 percent number will immediately jump up close to 100 percent.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Ninety-nine percent pretty quickly.


KING: Because as you mentioned, that's 43 percent. We were waiting for a long time for Washington County, the second biggest county, where Reno is. Now we have 99 percent of that county's votes in. So Wolf, if you just start going through these counties, many of were tiny, but 100 percent, 100 percent, 100 percent, I won't bore the viewers, every one of is 100 percent, except Clark County which is just 3 percent right now. Those are sample precincts.

So they're sitting on the vote. They're holding the vote until --

BLITZER: So 70 percent of the -- of the state. Yes.

KING: Seventy percent of the state, they're holding it until that special caucus is over. So once they report, we'll get right up there pretty quickly. Now, if you notice, in that county, that's why I sample precincts, Mitt Romney getting 56 percent at the point. If his numbers are higher in Clark County, the volume of the votes will be higher. So right now Governor Romney is at 44 percent in this statewide count that we have. Conceivable --

BLITZER: That number will go up. Yes.

KING: Conceivable if he keeps tracking, that Clark County is known as his straight, it could go up. Now one other thing I want to point out, Speaker Gingrich in that press conference just said that he's staying in. He does not expect to have a very strong February but he says by the Texas primary he thinks he think he could be at relative parody with Governor Romney in the delegate chase.

Let's just go through that to see what he would have to do to do it. Let's assume Governor Romney is going to carry tonight and these delegates will bring up portion. I'm going to jump through this quickly. You get Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado, now they don't always -- not all their delegates are settled next week. But let's just go through them. Let's assume Governor Romney runs the map in February. OK? Now Ron Paul might win Maine. But this is a hypothetical.

If Governor Romney runs ads and other -- you watch the other delegates, they're going up because it's proportional. The Washington caucuses will award to Ron Paul. Now we cut through Super Tuesday, if Gingrich is viable, now down here, we know he's strong. He's not on the ballot in Virginia. So his hope of getting delegates to catch up thwarted by that. They didn't file enough signatures. So we give the northern states to Romney, the southern states and Oklahoma to Gingrich.

If we keep moving, split them here, give Alabama and Mississippi both to Gingrich, give Missouri to Romney, and that's a tough one. We'll see how that one plays out. We're going to give it to him for this hypothetical. Puerto Rico. Now let's come through Illinois, Louisiana for Gingrich. Then you get here. Then you get here.

At this point, if -- with a rough projection, Romney has almost 2-1 in the delegate chase. So Gingrich would have to do much better in the north than he has done so far to get anyone close. And if he won the Texas primary, if we give him that, if that's his definition of relative parody, OK, but that's somewhere in the ballpark of where it would be if things play out with, you know, Romney winning and we proportionately the delegates. So that's a long haul to go.

And Wolf, I went through a lot of states right there. That requires a lot of money, a lot of organization, and right now when you're losing, the money doesn't keep coming in. So Speaker Gingrich is going to have to run a very disciplined campaign to get this far in and still have the resources to compete not only in Texas but in all the other places. That's April 3rd between now and then.

BLITZER: He seemed 100 percent determined, though, to do exactly that. He's not going anywhere because you can see how angry he is at Mitt Romney for some of these negative attacks that have gone ahead.

All right. Let's take a quick break. We're going to go back to that special caucus in Las Vegas. They're wrapping up. We'll see what happens there. Stay with us. Our special coverage continues in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We've heard from all the candidates. What's your final takeaway from what they've had to say tonight? KING: Florida and Nevada were the firewall of the Romney campaign, always planning in advance in case they stumbled, but Speaker Gingrich says he's going nowhere. So advantage Romney, fasten your seatbelt.


O'BRIEN: David Gergen?

GERGEN: Even though there were no surprises, Mitt Romney rolled up a significant victory tonight. He does have the momentum. He's much closer to the nomination, but there are knives waiting for him.

BORGER: From Newt Gingrich, who is not going away. And my question is whether he's going to have the money to be able to continue this crusade against Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: And now we know why Newt Gingrich didn't make a phone call congratulating mitt Romney tonight for his win. Once again, he's really angry at Mitt Romney.

I'm looking forward to the next debate in this context, happens to be February 22nd in Arizona. The four candidates will be there. We assume. And that will be -- that will be exciting.

O'BRIEN: And I think ultimately the final thing is game on. As much as we thought this might be something that was wrapping up, it actually sounds like Santorum is in, Gingrich is in.

BLITZER: On and on and on.

KING: But the February map --

BORGER: And --

KING: The February map is advantage Romney. The question is, in all primaries, sometimes you get a sense of buyer's remorse. Does it kick in this month? Can Gingrich hang on? It's a money question.

GERGEN: And the Obama team is in.

O'BRIEN: Yes. That is true. We haven't talked about them.


O'BRIEN: Thank you, Roland Martin. All right. Our coverage continues right here on CNN as we continue to cover the Nevada caucuses.