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Newt Gingrich thinks the GOP needs to stop underestimating Biden

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Respect for Marriage Act, a bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriage, is about to become law. It's another legislative victory for President Biden and Democrats in the sharply divided House and Senate. A lot of folks predicted that divide would prevent Biden from achieving his policy goals. Instead, Biden has been able to legislate effectively these last two years, and Republicans could stand to watch and learn. That is the view advanced in a new essay from none other than Newt Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the House, and he joins us now. Speaker Gingrich, welcome.

NEWT GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

KELLY: Good to have you with us. So I want people to know as they listen to us, you have been a close ally of former President Trump's. So I, for one, was surprised to hear that you believe President Biden has been effective and that Republicans, including you, have underestimated him. How so?

GINGRICH: Well, look. I think this is a lot. To use the analogy of a football season or a soccer game, when the game is over, if one team has a higher score, they win. The fact is that Biden had a very good off-year election, much better certainly than I thought, and I was very surprised by the outcome. The fact is that while Republicans focus on Biden's occasional, you know, memory lapses or cognitive confusion, overall, he has been able to calmly and methodically achieve goals which I don't agree with but nonetheless reflect the values of the team that elected him.

KELLY: So to be clear, you're not signing on to any of his politics, any of his policies. But you have to admire that he - what he has gotten done in the first years of his presidency.

GINGRICH: Absolutely. I think it's important for Republicans to draw a distinction between how they feel as a matter of values and analyzing realistically what they're up against, and they're up against a very methodical machine which has done a remarkable job. I would have thought, as a former Speaker of the House, that it was impossible for Nancy Pelosi with a four-vote margin to get through as much as she did. But they have a machine, and the machine worked. And so I would say that when you look at results, you may dislike them philosophically, but you have to be realistic that these people have been effective. And you have to assume that they're going to go into 2024 with a pretty powerful machine, running a juggernaut.

KELLY: Let's get specific. You write in your essay that, quote, "if Republicans are going to successfully work through the next two years in Congress and win the presidency in 2024, we need to look much more deeply at what worked and what did not work in 2020 and 2022." Newt Gingrich, briefly explain. In your view, what did not work that Republicans have been doing?

GINGRICH: I think it did not work to run essentially negative campaigns. I think being the anti-Biden will not get anyone elected president in '24. I think that it did not work to fail to compete with early voting. I think it did not work to have ads that in many cases were cookie-cutter ads, and it did not work to hide from taking the abortion issue head on. But I would also caution people. On the House side, with Kevin McCarthy's leadership, House Republicans got about 4 million more votes than the Democrats did. And in places like Florida, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Republicans won stunning victories, really turning the states into heavily Republican states.

KELLY: What about candidate quality in these midterms? This is something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has talked about. Former President Trump played a direct role in choosing a lot of the candidates this year, and a lot of them lost, including, just this week, Herschel Walker in your home state in Georgia.

GINGRICH: Yeah. I think, first of all, that McConnell was not particularly helpful. In fact, I think he was harmful with those kind of comments. I mean, Democrats have candidate problems, too. I used to - when we put our majority together in 1994 for the first time in 40 years, people could point to the 10 weakest Republicans. And I'd say, sure. Now let's look at the 10 weakest Democrats.

KELLY: Did the role that former President Trump played in the midterms - did that work for the GOP?

GINGRICH: I think in some places he was very helpful. I think in other places he wasn't. I think President Trump faces a real challenge now of convincing the party that he can, in fact, win a general election. And I think that he has a much harder time winning the nomination than people have thought up till now, and that's part of the - an outcome of this. I'll tell you. I'm much more concerned...

KELLY: Just - sorry. Before we move on from him...

GINGRICH: Yeah.

KELLY: Forgive me for jumping in. What advice would you give Donald Trump? What advice have you given him about running or not for another term?

GINGRICH: Well, my advice would be if you're going to run, run as a candidate looking to the future. Run as a candidate of big solutions and big ideas, and run as a candidate of the whole country. You know, don't run focused on 2020 election results, and don't run only as a MAGA candidate focused on the right wing of the Republican Party because that's not going to win.

KELLY: But that has been what he has wanted to talk about - I mean, his repeated false claims about a stolen election, which I have to note you supported and talked about and spread. That did seem to fall flat with midterm voters. Is - how big a problem is that for Republicans?

GINGRICH: Look. I'll be cheerful about coming back some time, and we can devote an entire interview to whether it was a rigged election - not necessarily stolen but certainly rigged. And we can start with all the Twitter information, and we can start with Zuckerberg's $415 million.

KELLY: I just need to pause you there because it's not me saying this. This is dozens of courts across the U.S. that have rejected claims of rigged elections.

GINGRICH: No, no. They rejected claims of stolen elections. Nobody ever looked at rigging.

KELLY: For the record, do you believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected president?

GINGRICH: For the record, I believe that he won under the terms that were set up, and I think that the entire elite system cheated in every way they could to defeat Donald Trump.

KELLY: I need to push you on this before we go on. I'm not hearing you say you believe he was legitimately elected.

GINGRICH: I believe he won under the rules, and I think that the system that elected him did everything it could to rig the game, including, for example, Twitter kicking off the incumbent president of the United States, kicking off the New York Post. I just did a podcast about this that we're releasing with a New York Post reporter who - Miranda Devine, who can walk you through step by step.

KELLY: So when...

GINGRICH: You think it didn't affect things to have Twitter do that? You don't think that doesn't affect things?

KELLY: Let me...

GINGRICH: Have Google refuse to deliver Republican fundraising emails?

KELLY: Let me focus you on where we are now because I heard you making the case that...

GINGRICH: You're the one who wanted to go back to the past. I'm happy to debate you about the nature of the 2020 campaign.

KELLY: I'm not debating you. I'm trying to figure out what you think and why. And I want to focus you on the point you were making about - whoever becomes the GOP nominee in the next presidential election, you would like to see them run - what were your words? - for the country...

GINGRICH: Yeah.

KELLY: ...On policy. So lay out for me what you see that as - what that looks like.

GINGRICH: Well, I think first of all, they should appeal to the entire country. We did remarkably well with Asian Americans this election. We continue to do better every two years with Latino Americans. We had both the candidate for governor and the senator carry Miami-Dade by huge margins, which is a sign that we can win Latino votes in a very big way. I think the Republican candidate for 2024 should be positive, should offer big solutions and should explain how they're going to get America out of the mess that Biden is going to leave us in. And I think the more they're positive and the more they offer big solutions, the more likely they are to win a stunning victory.

KELLY: That is Republican Newt Gingrich. He was Speaker of the House. Speaker Gingrich, thank you so much for your time.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF STATIK SELEKTAH SONG, "TIME FT. JACK HARLOW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Megan Lim
Courtney Dorning has been a Senior Editor for NPR's All Things Considered since November 2018. In that role, she's the lead editor for the daily show. Dorning is responsible for newsmaker interviews, lead news segments and the small, quirky features that are a hallmark of the network's flagship afternoon magazine program.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.