Gingrich brushes aside dropout talk, but retools strategy

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Friday, Feb. 10, 2012. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Newt Gingrich, CPAC
Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Friday, Feb. 10, 2012.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

SOUTH EL MONTE, Calif. - Coming off several disappointing primary performances, Newt Gingrich said Monday he's not dropping out -- but that he is retooling how he campaigns.

Gingrich brushed aside a call from the conservative National Review to quit the race to make room for Rick Santorum, saying it has called for him to abandon his campaign in the past. Santorum, for his part, has not called for Gingrich to abandon his bid.

The former House speaker said he has decided he's at his best when he focuses on problems and solutions and not on attacking his opponents. During his speech here, he avoided any mention of Santorum or front-runner Mitt Romney.

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"I do dramatically better when I focus on the nation's problems and I focus on the nation's solutions," he told the press following the event. "I don't do nearly as well when I focus on my competitors."

Gingrich acknowledged that he's shifting gears, after recent polls have shown his support plummeting.

"I think our strategy has to change to.a strategy of having better positive bold ideas." He pointed to earlier periods in Iowa and South Carolina when he rose to the top of the field as examples.

"The two periods where I focused on communicating those ideas, I ended up number one in [the Gallup poll] both times. And we're going to go back and do what we did that worked."

But the former speaker could not avoid the topic of his slide in the polls. When asked by a voter at his second stop in Pasadena how he would "bounce back," Gingrich pointed out that only one week ago the political conversation was focused on his win in South Carolina and two second place finishes in Florida and Nevada.

"Santorum ran fourth in all three places," he said. "He had a really good Tuesday. And suddenly the very people who told me I was dead in June came back and said 'see, I told you so.' Well I have a message for them. I'm still here and we're going to come back again."

Gingrich also called on Republicans in Congress to be "much, much more aggressive" in standing up to President Obama's fiscal 2013 budget plan.

"The time to have the fight over the next debt ceiling is not this fall," he said. "We have no choice. Time to stop it is right now. What the congress ought to do right now is passing the kind of reform that would make the debt ceiling increase unnecessarily."

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