(Updates with comments from Christie in fifth paragraph.)
Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who won the South Carolina primary yesterday and is heading to Florida to campaign, said he is best-suited to face Democratic President Barack Obama in debates.
“My job in Florida is to convince people that I am the one candidate who can clearly defeat Obama in a series of debates and the one candidate who has big enough solutions that they would really get America back on track,” Gingrich said today on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “We’re a big country, we have big problems, and we need big solutions.”
Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, won 40 percent of the vote in South Carolina. Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, ran second, collecting 28 percent, with 99 percent of the vote counted. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had 17 percent, followed by U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas with 13 percent. The next primary will be held in Florida on Jan. 31.
“Florida is a state which has suffered terribly through bad government policies as it relates to housing,” Gingrich said in the interview.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who endorsed Romney in October, said Gingrich “embarrassed” the party as House speaker, citing a 1997 penalty imposed after he admitted giving misleading information in an ethics probe.
“He was run out of the speakership by his own party,” Christie said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations. This is a guy who has had a very difficult political career at times and has been an embarrassment to the party.”
Gingrich said his conservatism would allow him to best confront Obama in debates after the nominating conventions and before the November election.
“Whichever person we nominate had better be able to take Obama head-on because they’re going to throw everything they can at them,” Gingrich said on CNN today. “One of the reasons people in South Carolina voted for me was a belief that I could debate Obama head-to-head, that I could convey conservative values.”
Gingrich said his experience as a small business owner and congressional leader makes him better suited for the presidency than Romney, who was a co-founder of Boston private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC.
“Governor Romney may be running for CEO. I’m running for president,” Gingrich said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “The president of the United States has to understand the government of the United States. President Obama clearly didn’t, and frankly I doubt if Governor Romney would.”
“Millions of small business owners, they’ll understand that Newt Gingrich is a small business owner, really understands exactly what they go through, in a way that I think sometimes big investors and big managers don’t understand,” Gingrich said.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gingrich said today he isn’t surprised by criticism in the media because “we intend to change the establishment, not get along with it.”
Gingrich said on CNN that political leaders in Washington and New York don’t understand “the level of anger at the national establishment.” adding that
“There’s something real and deep there,” Gingrich said. “People really are hurting.”
--Editors: Ann Hughey, Steve Geimann
To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Zumbrun in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at email@example.com