Newt Gingrich on this Sunday's "Face the Nation"

CBS

The frontrunner comes to "Face the Nation."

This Sunday's guest is Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.

Based on a string of strong debate performances, Gingrich has seen a rise to the top of the polls that has caught most of the political establishment off guard. Now, with only a few weeks until the first in the nation Iowa caucuses, Gingrich is looking to solidify his support among Republican primary voters.

"My campaign will focus on positive ideas and positive solutions. I'm frankly taking the gamble that the American people care about actually solving Americas' problems, not just watching politicians beating each other up," he said this week in Iowa.

As Gingrich has soared to the top of the polls, leading many statewide polls in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida - his opponents have been on the offensive - saying that Gingrich's time in Washington makes him unfit to bring serious change, questioning his conservative credentials, and saying he's unreliable.

Gingrich, who has kept his promise not to attack his opponents, has responded.

"I have a 90 percent American Conservative Union voting record for 20 years. I balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in debt. Pretty conservative. The first wealth entitlement reform of your lifetime, in fact, the only major entitlement reform until now was welfare. Two out of three people went back to work or went to school. Pretty conservative. First tax cut in 16 years, largest capital gains tax cut in American history, unemployment came down to 4.2 percent. Pretty conservative," he said at last night's Fox News debate in Iowa.

"I think on the conservative thing, it's sort of laughable to suggest that somebody who campaigned with Ronald Reagan and with Jack Kemp and has had a 30-year record of conservatism is somehow not a conservative?" he said.

But Gingrich also has acknowledged that all of the negative ads, from both candidates and their supported, though unaffiliated political action committees, has made his run in Iowa more challenging.

"You have everybody firing away simultaneously in a relatively small market. And so it's going to require two weeks of my going around, telling the truth, letting people look at the negative ad, look at the truth and decide do they really want to give their vote to someone who is not telling the truth?" he said earlier this week.

The former speaker of the House has promised a campaign of bold ideas to turn the country around. While he's been hesitant to attack his opponents, he has not spared President Obama from harsh criticism.

In Thursday's Fox News debate, he was asked about the White House's threatened veto of a Republican bill to extend the pay-roll tax cut that also approved an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline's proponents say the project will create thousands of jobs, but environmentalists say it could harm drinking water supplies in the Midwest; the White House has delayed a decision on the pipeline pending further environmental studies.

"The Canadian prime minister has already said to the American president, if you don't want to build this pipeline to bring -- create 20,000 American jobs and bring oil through the United States to the largest refinery complex in the world, Houston, I want to put it straight west in Canada to Vancouver and ship the oil direct to China, so you'll lose the jobs, you'll lose the throughput, you'll lose 30 or 40 years of work in Houston. And the president of the United States cannot figure out that it is -- I'm using mild words here -- utterly irrational to say, I'm now going to veto a middle-class tax cut to protect left-wing environmental extremists in San Francisco, so that we're going to kill American jobs, weaken American energy, make us more vulnerable to the Iranians, and do so in a way that makes no sense to any normal, rational American," he said.

Asked how the Republicans should proceed on the issue, Gingrich continued his attack. "I'd say to the president, you want to look like you are totally out of touch with the American people? Be my guest, but I'm not backing down when we're right and you are totally wrong," he said.

Can Gingrich's big ideas turn the country around? Can he win the battle of ideas and win the Republican nomination? Are Republican voters willing to look past his years in Washington and back him as the best candidate to bring change? Can Gingrich survive the barrage of criticism that's he's come under since rocketing to the top of the polls? Those will be among the issues discussed as the Republican frontrunner, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sits down with Bob Schieffer to Face the Nation.

Full CBS News coverage: Newt Gingrich

  • Robert Hendin On Twitter»

    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.

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