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Newt Gingrich's Sunday pitch: Don't count me out

March 04, 2012|By Mark Z. Barabak
  • Newt Gingrich appears on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.
Newt Gingrich appears on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. (Mary F. Calvert / CBS )

Reporting from Cincinnati — Fresh off a distant fourth-place finish in the Washington caucuses and more than a month since his one and only primary victory, Newt Gingrich had a defiant message Sunday: Don't count me out.

"This is going to go on for a good while," the former House speaker said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," one of several Washington talk shows Gingrich visited in the run-up to Super Tuesday.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may outspend the rest of the GOP field "by multiples," Gingrich said, but "he's not a very convincing front-runner and he's a long way from having closed out this race."

Gingrich said he expects to win Georgia, the largest of the states voting in Tuesday's nationwide sweepstakes, and to do so by more than Romney's narrow victory Tuesday in his native Michigan. From there, Gingrich said, he expects to win Alabama and Mississippi a week later and bulk up his delegate count in Texas and California at the end of the calendar.

Gingrich has not prevailed in a contest since his Jan. 20 victory in the South Carolina primary and mathematically it seems unlikely -- if not impossible -- for him to accrue the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination outright.

His best hope is apparently for a contested convention in which no candidate has the needed delegates, allowing Gingrich to emerge as a consensus choice of the party faithful who will gather in Tampa, Fla., in August to pick the GOP nominee.

Gingrich fell back on an argument that buoyed him earlier in the campaign, when he surged and enjoyed his own time as the front-runner: his dynamic performance on the debate stage.

"The thing people have to ask themselves is: Who do you think could stand up to Barack Obama in October and win the debates?" Gingrich asked. "If we don't have somebody who can win the debates in October, we're going to have a very hard time winning the election."

Gingrich repeatedly refused to be drawn into the controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh. The talk radio host apologized Saturday night for the slurs he used to refer to a Georgetown University law school student after she testified before congressional Democrats in favor of a rule requiring employers to offer health insurance covering birth control.

While Gingrich said the apology was appropriate, he accused the "elite media" of avoiding more pressing issues, such as rising gas prices, the death of Americans in Afghanistan and, not least, the Obama administration's alleged hostility to religious institutions.

"Nobody's blocking anyone from having access to contraception. No one," Gingrich said on NBC's "Meet The Press." The question, as he framed it, is whether Obama, through government fiat, can impose his views on religious institutions.

"Have we become a country where it's OK to go to church on Sunday morning for one hour, but let's not actually express those beliefs the rest of the week?" Gingrich demanded.

mark.barabak@latimes.com

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