Gingrich’s debate strategy became, of necessity, his campaign strategy. He would not attack his fellow Republican candidates, directing his criticism instead at President Obama and the press. It proved a remarkably effective political gambit. The debate crowds were far more raucously partisan than in the past, a fact that Gingrich immediately sensed, and exploited. “You’ve got these media guys, and behind them are 2,000 right--wingers who are waiting to beat them up.”
Ever the analyst, Gingrich recites the key moments of his comeback, locating them within the long string of debates. The first, and perhaps most important, came in Iowa in August, during an event hosted by Fox News and The Washington Examiner. Gingrich arrived mired deep in the lower tier. When Fox News anchor Bret Baier opened the evening by encouraging the contestants to “put away their talking points” and prepare for a substantive discussion of issues, Gingrich noted Baier’s words and waited. His chance came when Fox’s Chris Wallace asked him, “How do you respond to people who say that your campaign has been a mess so far?”
Gingrich blasted Wallace for “playing Mickey Mouse games,” and the audience roared its approval. (Gingrich notes that he got lucky by getting the question from Wallace, “because he may be the most disliked person on Fox.”)
In the Washington meeting with Newsweek, Gingrich asked, “Did you see my speech last night? I think it’s on -C-Span. You really ought to get a copy of it.” In the speech, he said that when the Wright brothers were experimenting with the first airplane, they’d bring extra wood along for repairs, because they knew there would be lots of crashes along the way. That, he says, is how a Gingrich administration would approach an intractable problem like poverty. “So, we’re gonna help the poor?” he asks. “Truth is, we don’t know how to help the poor. We’re gonna experiment and experiment and experiment until we break through.” That may not please the ear of a small--government conservative, but it is the essential Gingrich. “It makes me, in some ways, like the two Roosevelts,” he says.
Gingrich, who is already thinking beyond the presidential election, says that his larger project is the creation of a “new majority,” which will derive partly from the conservative movement, but “will be much bigger.”
“You take brain science, you take personal and Social Security savings accounts, you take offering the poor the opportunity to work and have a paycheck instead of food stamps, you take Lean Six Sigma”—a management-efficiency doctrine, his latest fascination—“and suddenly you have a Gestalt that is in many ways conservative, but in many ways very moderate.”