Gingrich: Romney needs to present a "clear alternative"

(CBS News) Former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says GOP nominee Mitt Romney has to accomplish two tasks at the first presidential debate set to take place Wednesday: Convince the public that the incumbent president should not be reelected, and also that he would do a better job.

"At the end of the debate Wednesday night, Romney has to be a clear alternative," Gingrich said on "Face the Nation" Sunday.

He added, "Romney, he doesn't have to hit a home run. But Romney has to be, at the end of the debate Wednesday night, a clear alternative who is considered as a potential president by a majority of the American people in order for his campaign to have a chance to live."

The former House Speaker said debates "matter psychologically to the country. They're the most viewed single event in the campaign, and I think it's always a burden on the challengers.

"I think Mitt Romney has to move to clarity in drawing the contrast between the two," he added. "There has to be a contrast between a Romney recovery and Obama stagnation."

"You first have to make sure people say, 'Yeah, Obama's stagnation is unacceptable,' but then you have to say, 'by the way, the better guy will be Romney,'" Gingrich said.

"Romney should be focusing on that kind of big choice - it's not really right or left so much as it is common sense versus fuzzy ideas," Gingrich said.

Gingrich has been quick to offer Romney advice since he clinched the Republican nomination, recently saying the political landscape is "too sophisticated" for Romney's "overly methodical" message. and that he needs to "disarm" Mr. Obama in the debate.

Christie: Debate will turn race "upside-down"

"No challenger can become president if they don't stand up against the incumbent," Gingrich said.

Gingrich also weighed in on attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Obama administration has altered its accounting of the attacks, first calling them a spontaneous demonstration, then a terrorist attack.

"I don't know whether I feel more comfortable knowing the administration was incompetent and lied to us or I feel more comfortable knowing that the intelligence community was totally out of touch," Gingrich said. "My hunch is the intelligence community was not out of touch."

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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