CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a clear rebuke of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at a gathering of party leaders, former rival Newt Gingrich declared Thursday, “I would like to say to every consultant in this party, if you think you can target less than 100 percent, you’re not going to get any more business.”
Gingrich was referring to Romney’s remarks at a private fundraiser during the 2012 campaign that cast “47 percent” of the population as government freeloaders who were never going to vote for him, no matter what. The comments became fodder for relentless Democratic attacks after a video recording came to light. The statement came to exemplify one of the fundamental problems with the Romney campaign, which was widely perceived as beholden to the wealthy and disconnected from minorities and the middle class.
While Romney has largely kept his head down since the election — he was the first losing presidential nominee since Michael Dukakis in 1989 to skip his opponent’s inauguration — Gingrich on Thursday thrust himself into the middle of an ongoing debate over the way forward for the Republican Party. The former speaker of the House, who received two standing ovations, said Republicans need to undertake much more than a “midcourse correction.”
“I believe we are at a turning point where, over the next two or three years, we’re going to make enormous decisions. And I am going to warn you in advance, they will be controversial decisions and it will involve great deal of arguing and a large amount of passion,” Gingrich said. “We are faced with the obligation to think profoundly … and do things that are very new and very different.”
First and foremost, Gingrich said, “We need to quit listening to Washington.” Pointing to the 30 Republican governors around the country, “One of the major jobs of House Republicans should be to form a daily alliance with your governors.”
Quit whining about President Obama’s left-wing agenda, Gingrich counseled, and take up “cheerful persistence.” He added, “We need to learn to be the happy party.” He recalled his recent cameo on NBC’s Parks and Recreation and his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno along with reality-television star Snooki.
“This is America, guys,” he said. “I am for 100 percent of the American people believing they have a party that cares about their future, and it’s called the Republican Party.”