Gingrich: ‘There Will Be a Great Debate in the Republican Party’

By Christopher Goins | January 4, 2012 | 5:11 PM EST

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, accompanied by his wife Callista, speaks during a campaign stop, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

( – GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said although the ultimate goal of his campaign is to replace President Barack Obama, there must be a great debate within the Republican Party before there is a debate with the president.

While he didn’t have apparent conflict with second-place Iowa caucus winner Rick Santorum, he did comment on first-place caucus winner Mitt Romney and third-place winner Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

“One of the things that became obvious in Iowa is that there will be a great debate in the Republican Party before we are prepared to have a great debate with Barack Obama,” Gingrich said.

After thanking his supporters who stood behind him through the “avalanche of negative ads,” Gingrich praised Santorum for running a positive campaign, adding that he admired his courage, discipline, and focus in his campaign and that he wished he could say the same for others’ campaigns.

“But here is the key thing to ask. It’s not just about beating Obama as important as that is,” Gingrich said. “It’s about what we need to do as a country to get back on the right track. And that’s a lot bigger than replacing one person.”

Gingrich said that means “fixing the Congress, fixing the bureaucracy, fixing the courts” and “resetting the culture” and getting the judges to understand that they operate within the parameters of the Constitution.

But the focus of the “great debate” must not focus on domestic issues only, Gingrich said. It must also focus on foreign policy.

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After congratulating Paul for his third place finish, Gingrich said Paul’s foreign policy views are “stunningly dangerous for the survival of the United States.”

“I think it’s a very simple question at the next debate that I will ask Congressman Paul,” Gingrich said.

“If you have a terrorist who is prepared to put on a bomb and wear it as a vest and walk into a grocery store or a mall or a bus and blow themselves up as long as they can kill you,” he added, “why would you think that if they could get access to a nuclear weapon they wouldn’t use it?”

If young Americans want to live in safety, Gingrich said, they would have to “live in a world where Iran has no nuclear weapon ‘period.’”

Although Gingrich did not name names, he took a clear swipe at Romney, repeating remarks Gingrich made earlier in the campaign about Romney being a Massachusetts moderate.

“We will have one other great debate, and that is whether this party wants a Reagan conservative who helped change Washington in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan, and helped change Washington in the 1990s as speaker of the House, somebody who is into changing Washington,” Gingrich said.

On the flip side, voters could choose “a Massachusetts moderate who in fact would be pretty good at managing the decay but has given no evidence in his years in Massachusetts of any ability to change the culture, or change the political structure, or change the government,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich added that his campaign will not be running any negative campaign ads but he does “reserve the right to tell the truth.” The truth, he said, if it seems negative “may be more of a comment on his record than it is on politics.”