Gingrich: Voters more comfortable with me than Mitt
Updated: 10:00 a.m. ET
Newt Gingrich on Sunday predicted a victory in South Carolina's primary next week, declaring that "I fit much more comfortably" with the electorate than his rival Mitt Romney.
Gingrich, speaking with Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation," urged voters to "look at the total record" when evaluating their choices for the Republican nomination, and argued that "what Republicans don't want to do is nominate somebody who collapses in September under the weight of Barack Obama."
"I think here in South Carolina I'm probably going to win next Saturday because as a Georgia Reagan conservative I fit much more comfortably with the average South Carolina Republican," he said.
Gingrich posited that, unlike some of his opponents, he can draw "a sharp contrast" with the president in the general election.
"That's frankly one of the advantages I think I have that as a good conservative with a clear record of conservatism, I think that I could in fact draw a sharp contrast with Obama," he said.
According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, the former House speaker is currently at fourth place in South Carolina, which holds its primary on Jan. 21. Romney leads the pack overwhelmingly by 21 points, with 37 percent, while Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are tied for second at 16 percent each. Gingrich, who led his opponents in that state as of December, earned 12 percent support.
Nevertheless, the candidate continues to go after Romney in the lead-up to the South Carolina contest, jabbing the former governor as "somebody who comes from a Massachusetts moderate background."
"I think it's very hard for him to differentiate RomneyCare from ObamaCare. It's very hard to differentiate appointing liberal judges which he did when he was the governor of Massachusetts," Gingrich said. "I mean, these are things that are going to come up and I think for the conservative movement it makes it more difficult frankly and that's why I think here in South Carolina I'm probably going to win next Saturday."
Gingrich's apparent mission to take Romney down has led some observers to argue that he is essentially doing the work of President Obama.
The former speaker dismissed that notion Sunday, arguing that any nominee should be able to prove his ability to withstand tough attacks.
"I think it's fair to raise any questions, including about me or about any other candidate," Gingrich said. "It's fair to raise the questions now, get them out of the way now, make sure that whoever we nominate is clear enough, public enough, accountable enough that they can withstand the Obama onslaught. Otherwise, we'll nominate somebody in a soft process and watch them collapse."
"I don't want to see us nominate somebody who can't debate Obama, who can't take the heat, who can't answer the questions because then we'll have a disaster in the fall," he said. "Let's make sure that whoever the nominee is has been thoroughly vetted," he said.
The candidate continued to blast Romney for a series of negative ads - released by a pro-Romney super PAC - that he claims are factually inaccurate, and said he was trying to "set a standard" for how campaigns were conducted.
"I'm trying to set a standard here," Gingrich said, of his calls for Romney to urge his allied super PAC to correct inaccurate information. "I don't particularly like super PACs. I'd much rather have election reform so the money could go straight to the candidate and the candidate would bear responsibility."
"You'd clean up about 80 percent of the poison in the system if candidates had to put their name on the ads," he added.
A pro-Gingrich super PAC recently spent millions of dollars to air a 28-minute film in South Carolina hitting Romney for his record at the venture capital group Bain Capital. Some of the information in that film has been disputed, and Gingrich has since called on the PAC to either edit the inaccuracies or remove the ad from the internet and the airwaves.
- Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.Follow on Twitter »
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