Gingrich: Choosing Conservative GOP Candidate Is Only Way to Beat Obama

By Melanie Arter | January 30, 2012 | 1:03 PM EST

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with his wife Callista, bow their heads in prayer during a campaign event at the The Villages, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, in Lady Lake, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke))

( - GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told a crowd at The Villages retirement community in Florida on Sunday that the only way to beat President Obama is to choose a Republican candidate who is conservative, not moderate like former Gov. Mitt Romney, so the GOP can show the difference between the candidates.

Gingrich noted the 1980 presidential election where Ronald Reagan beat President Jimmy Carter as an example that running a conservative Republican is a winning strategy.

“Now in 1980 we were involved in a campaign like this, and it was clear that you needed a conservative who was a long way from Jimmy Carter in order to win, because you had to show the difference,” Gingrich said.

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In 1996, former Sen. Bob Dole ran against President Bill Clinton and lost, and in 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ran against then-Sen. Barack Obama and lost – both examples of how choosing a moderate to run against a Democrat is a losing strategy, Gingrich said.

“And I would argue we tried a moderate in 1996, and they couldn’t show the difference. We tried a moderate in 2008. They couldn’t show the difference,” he said.

“If we’re gonna beat Obama – he’s gonna have a billion dollars, and almost all of it’s going to be spent negatively, because he doesn’t have any positive record to run on, and so…he’s gone from ‘Yes, we can’ to ‘Why we couldn’t’ as his theme. So we need to have somebody who can draw a sharp distinction,” Gingrich said.

“Now Romneycare and Obamacare are about this far apart. You can’t make the difference, but where we are as conservatives is about this far apart. Obama won’t be able to hide from the difference. And after the billion dollars of ads are over, he’s still going to be over here, and it’s pretty straight forward. I am for free enterprise, small business, creating jobs, and paychecks. He is for big government, big bureaucracy, and food stamps,” he added.