The top things Gingrich said on "Hardball"

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich greets supporters at an election rally in Concord, N.C., Tuesday, April 24, 2012.
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
AP Photo/Chuck Burton

(CBS News) In an interview on MSNBC's "Hardball," former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich sat down with host Christ Matthews in a lengthy, frank and fast-paced conversation. Here are some of the funny, provocative, or odd exchanges Gingrich had with Matthews:

  • Gingrich on how Mitt Romney beat him in Florida after Gingrich's win in South Carolina: "When you have somebody who's tough enough to look you in the eye and run over you.... He was in a situation where everything he had ever done was going to disappear if I beat him in Florida. And so he said, 'Look, I got two choices. I can throw the kitchen sink at Gingrich... or I can be a nice guy and not be the nominee.'"
    • Gingrich on Romney as president: "He is a very methodical person. He is prepared to systematically do what he thinks is right for the country. And I think he might turn out to make a surprisingly good president."
    • Gingrich on his use of the term "welfare queen:" "Never once had an ethnic -- I mean, it could have been any background," defending that his use of the term had no racial connotations.
    • On why people don't believe Obama was born in the U.S.: "Beats me."
    • On his potential speaking slot at the convention: "I will take whatever Romney thinks will help him win.... I'm not a supplicant, I'm a team player."
    • On his favorite zoo: "Oh, San Diego."
    • On why he likes reptiles: "They're astonishingly successful. They do it in a totally different way than we do, and they have been successful for a very long time."
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      Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for