MDJ: The other day at the Cobb rally you told me that from a financial perspective you could stay in the race until Tampa. If you lose Georgia, will you stay in the race through sheer willpower until the very end?
Gingrich: Well look, let me say first of all, a poll which came out on Channel 11 last night showed me up by 13 or 14 points. Polls can be off a little bit, but they’re probably not off 13 to 14 points. … Let’s be clear: I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race. But if I win Georgia, the following week we go to Alabama and Mississippi. I think I will win both of those. And we have a good opportunity to win in Kansas. … Part of why I’m not going to back out is, I think people deserve a chance to have a genuine conservative. And based on people donating around the country, I think that they agree, and frankly I think $2.50 a gallon gasoline is beginning to really resonate all across the country.
Futren Corp. owner Jim Rhoden: Given the aggregate amount of money that is compiled against you, what is your strategy to get to Tampa and come away as our nominee?
Gingrich: Well, the first part of the strategy, frankly, is to focus on an American energy policy to get back to $2.50 a gallon because I think it’s the clearest and simplest message and is in people’s pocketbooks and is also in their general view of things. The American people by better than 4 to 1 believe we need an American energy strategy, and it gets me into talking about foreign policy and national security, which is my biggest strength compared to the other candidates, so that’s part of it.
The other part is frankly an endurance contest. You’ve seen Gov. Romney who’s spent maybe 10 times as much money as the rest of us and can’t close the sale. Well, if he can’t close the sale, our job is to go out and keep making the sale until we finish closing it, and I think as you see us get to more and more states that the narrative will become more and more that there’s a real alternative. That’s part of why we really liked Drudge last night because the whole concept that we’re back again and we’re back on the same thing. We’re back on visionary, big solution approaches that we think will work and my hope is that gradually works.
Gov. Perry told me — he’s strongly backing me — he believes we will come out of Texas with 155 delegates. That’s the last weekend in May. The following weekend is California. California now votes by Congressional district. And it’s the biggest delegation.
People, if they come to the realization that Gov. Romney can’t win, most of the delegates that he supposedly has are not in fact committed legally and they can switch. You could easily have a convention.
People want to beat Obama, and they’re going to measure all of us against a simple test: Can you debate Obama in October and win? Because if you can’t debate him and win, you are not going to win the election against the incumbent president with a billion dollars. And so my goal is to get through the primary where sometime in the next few months people look up and say, “You know, he has the right values, he has the right ideas, he has the right vision, and he can beat Obama and the other guys can’t.”
If that happens, you’ll see a lot of delegates switch very rapidly and this could be the most fluid campaign — we’ve never seen a campaign since 1940 that is this open, this late and has this many different things going on simultaneously. So that’s my strategy.
Matt Hames, president and CEO of Acru: I was wondering if we could get your perspective on community banks, Georgia being what has been coined by the media as “Ground Zero” for bank failures in this country.
Gingrich: My view is that the Dodd-Frank bill has been a total disaster. It is destroying independent banking in America, crippling small business and driving down housing prices, and I have been surprised that it has not become a much bigger issue. The way Dodd-Frank was written the big banks are actually getting bigger. So everybody we were told in 2008 is too big to fail is now bigger. … And it makes it vastly harder for small business to borrow money. Independent banks make three times as many loans to small business per deposit as big banks do. And so I think this is a very dangerous trend, but it fits liberalism perfectly because it centralizes all power in Washington and they can’t control small independent banks, but they can sure control the seven or eight big banks.
Dr. Ron Newcomb, president of Chattahoochee Technical College: Would you speak to America’s competitiveness in the world marketplace and especially to the role of post-secondary technical education?
Gingrich: We have to redesign unemployment compensation. It should always have a training component. We should never pay people for doing nothing. We have to do two things: The reason I’m for 100 percent expensing in the tax code is I want to have a really dramatic incentive for new equipment. … If you’re going to do that you’re going to have to have constant training for people and one of my points for people is we are entering a world where you never have a terminal degree. It’s not possible. Everybody will learn all their lives. Which also means you’ve got to restructure a lot of the education system. It’s got to become much more customer-centered. Much more flexible in hours, and much more prepared to be built around the needs.