Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) denounced the Treasury Department's $700 billion bailout plan for Wall Street on Tuesday and -- citing his organization's latest poll -- said the American people are in agreement with him.
In a press conference at a K Street law firm to announce the survey's findings, Gingrich said that "only on this street and on Wall Street does this kind of plan have any hope. It's going to be a dead loser on Election Day."
The poll was conducted Sept. 16-21 by Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Democratic pollster Doug Schoen in conjunction with Gingrich's group, American Solutions for Winning the Future. It found that the majority of respondents did not favor the government bailout, a finding that Gingrich as well as the pollsters called noteworthy because it suggests the American people are at odds with Washington on how to solve the financial crisis. As Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. proposes a "$700 billion blank check" for Wall Street, Americans want more capital investment and less government intervention, Gingrich said.
The survey's respondents overwhelmingly favored less federal assistance for the financial sector. Seven in 10 said they opposed the government using tax dollars to keep companies from failing. On top of that, 68 percent said a company faced with failure due to mismanagement ought to face bankruptcy, "even if that means investors lose money and there is harm to the stock market." Only 19 percent said the government should step in to support the company using taxpayers' dollars. The only bailout for which a majority of respondents indicated support was the one involving mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and even that garnered the support of just 52 percent of those surveyed.
Other polls, such as a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey also conducted amid Wall Street's unraveling, paint a rather different picture. More than 60 percent of respondents in the CNN poll said that the government should "step in" to try to address the problems faced by financial institutions and the stock market. On top of that, a majority -- 55 percent -- said they favored the government spending "millions" to assist large financial firms that are in danger of collapse.
Responding to the disparate results, Conway said at Tuesday's press conference that the wording and sequencing of questions makes a huge difference in respondents' answers, and it could explain the contradictory results. Schoen chimed in that the American Solutions poll doesn't suggest that there should be no government involvement at all -- just not the $700 billion under discussion.
Gingrich condemned Paulson's plan primarily for its wide-reaching potential influence. "I find it inconceivable that the Treasury and Federal Reserve could manage the entire economy of Wall Street, yet that's what Paulson proposes," Gingrich said. "That's an undertaking of such gigantic delusion that it's going to be a nightmare."
The former House speaker also predicted how the financial crisis -- and Congress' decisions on legislation to intervene -- will influence the presidential race. While he said Barack Obama will "clearly go along with" the $700 bailout proposal, he expressed uncertainty about John McCain. "Either McCain will reluctantly go along with it... or you'll see McCain decide -- much in the same way he picked Sarah Palin -- and be more like a reformer and say this is a terrible bill," Gingrich said.