Newt Gingrich tells conservatives he has the right ideas

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at a town hall meeting sponsored by the East Side Tea Party of Orlando and the Central Florida Tea Party Council, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. AP Photo/John Raoux

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
AP Photo/John Raoux

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, known among Republicans as an idea machine, pitched himself as the man with the answers to a major gathering of conservative activists on Friday in Florida.

The author of the GOP's 1990s-era Contract With America, Gingrich said he plans next week to unfurl a next-generation contract that he said is "going to be bigger, it's going to be deeper and more profound. We are in greater trouble than we were in 1994 when we unveiled the first Contract with America."

Speaking to about 500 people gathered for the Conservative Political Action Conference, he also jabbed at his Republican primary, saying that he doesn't have to worry about defending things he wrote in books.

"I just want all of you to know that I actually believe all the words that I wrote in my book," he said, drawing a distinction with rivals Rick Perry, the Texas governor, and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, who traded barbs about their respective books at Thursday night's candidate debate. Gingrich recently published, A Nation Like No Other.

Indirectly addressing critics who call him a candidate stuck in the past, Gingrich invoked a letter that President Abraham Lincoln once wrote to Congress saying, "If we can disenthrall ourselves from the past, we'll save our nation."

He revisited some familiar territory, including the "European socialist" agenda of President Obama. Gingrich got his biggest applause line when he said he wanted to "re-balance the Constitution" to curb what he describes as judicial activism on the bench. He also repeated earlier criticism of Obama as the "food-stamp president" for giving a free pass to the unemployed, rather than creating jobs. "The best social program is a job," Gingrich said.

Watch highlights from CPAC in Orlando below:

  • Lindsey Boerma On Twitter»

    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.

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