Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is defending his conservative record.
Gingrich on Thursday evening pushed back against rivals who say he hasn’t been consistently conservative and cite his one-time support for a requirement that Americans buy health insurance. Gingrich says he has changed his positions when he learns new facts, but says claims he is not conservative are “laughable.”
Gingrich opened the final debate before Iowans caucus by pointing to his tenure as House speaker: an overhaul of welfare programs, four balanced budgets and low unemployment.
He also points to his role helping Republicans win the majority in the House during 1994’s midterm elections and, before that, his support for Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp.
He also likened his current situation to Ronald Reagan’s in 1979.
“And if people said, ‘Gosh, electability is the number one issue,’ they wouldn’t have nominated him,” said Gingrich. “What they said is he believes what he is talking about. He has big solutions. He can get the economy growing. He understands foreign policy and he is the person I want to have debate Jimmy Carter.”
The former House speaker, whose sterling debate performances fueled his surge to the top of the GOP field, touted his plan to square off against the president in Lincoln-Douglas style debates.
“I believe I can debate Barack Obama and I think in seven three-hour debates, Barack Obama will not have a leg to stand on in trying to defend a record that is terrible and an ideology that is radical,” said Gingrich.