Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was in Cary, N.C., on Wednesday night to speak to more than 600 people attending a dinner of the conservative John Locke Foundation.
Before the dinner, Gingrich, a potential presidential candidate in 2012, answered questions from the media:
Q: How does the current political environment compare with the 1994 GOP landslide?
[Mississippi] Gov. Haley Barbour, who was the Republican National chairman in 1994, wrote me last week and said he thought the environment was harder for the Democrats this year, that they were in more trouble than they were back in 1994. He thought there was a real chance the House could go Republican this year, and there would be a very large pick up in governorships.
That sort of fits my thinking. When you see a race in Massachusetts that is virtually too close to call now ... this is Ted Kennedy's seat. ... You see the results in New Jersey and Virginia for governor .... It certainly looks like this could be a very, very good year for the American people to send a signal that they don't want higher taxes, more deficits and high spending.
Q: Do Republicans need something like a Contract With America to focus voter attention on their ideas?
After Labor Day it would be very good to have a Contract With America approach. But you can't get there until after Labor Day. ...
Q: Looking ahead to the next presidential race, are there certain political figures in the Republican Party that you see as particularly attractive candidates for 2012?
I think there are a number of people who could emerge pretty rapidly. The three obvious candidates from the last cycle, Gov. [Sarah] Palin, Gov. [Mitt] Romney and Gov. [Mike] Huckabee, all three of them become viable. There are a couple of governors I really like - Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Mitch Daniels of Indiana. I don't think he will run this time, but I think [Louisiana Gov.] Bobby Jindal is a brilliant leader for the future. Certainly Gov. Haley Barbour, if he decides he wants to run, has a big enough base nationally as a former national committee chairman. I wouldn't be at all surprised if [South Dakota] Sen John Thune ran. He has risen very rapidly in the Senate. He is a very attractive person. I think if [Texas] Gov. Rick Perry survives the primary he is in the middle of with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, he may very well run.
I don't think we will find us with a shortage of potential candidates.
[In response to a later question, Gingrich said he was probably on the list of seven or eight possible Republican presidential candidates in 2012.]
Q: How would you rate President Barack Obama as a political leader?
In some ways, you could argue he has been the most ruthlessly effective since Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society. If you can get $787billion out of Congress with nobody having read the bill, that is pretty remarkable. He has come closer to passing government-run health care than anybody in American history. And he has done so in a pretty relentless way.
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