Macon — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is here at the GOP convention, drawing a crowd of well-wishers minutes before dinner.
We’re waiting for his speech, but in the meantime, watch this exclusive sitdown with Gingrich snagged by John Pruitt with Channel 2 Action News.
Gingrich said he’s prepared for the withering examination and criticism that will come with three marriages and two divorces:
“This is tough on everybody who knows us,” he said. “We knew that some of it was coming and we knew that it was unavoidable….If you have ideas that frighten your opponents and they can’t beat the ideas, they decide to beat you.”
And from Shannon McCaffrey of the Associated Press:
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Friday he’s more mature than he was in his days as a fiery House speaker and Georgia congressman and has learned to watch what he says.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Gingrich said he “is slower and more disciplined” and that he has learned to let “larger teams carry the load.”
The 67-year-old Gingrich made his remarks during a swing through Georgia, which he represented in Congress for two decades. He was hitting the campaign trail for the first time since officially jumping into the 2012 race this week.
He stumped at Fincher’s Barbeque, a 76-year-old restaurant in Macon, Ga.
There he shook hands with supporters wearing “Newt 2012″ stickers.
Gingrich rolled up the sleeves of his blue dress shirt as he smiled and worked the small crowd.
He is set to address the Georgia Republican Party convention Friday night, where he will outline a jobs creation plan heavy on tax cuts.
Gingrich told The AP on Friday that after he became speaker, it took him two years to learn that he had to re-calibrate his style and change his message from his days as a Republican-insurgent in a House that had been controlled by Democrats for decades.
And by then, he said, “the damage had been done.”
“There are the things you want to say and what you need to say,” Gingrich told The AP.
Some have questioned whether Gingrich_ known for his combative style and what some consider over-the-top rhetoric _ has the temperament and discipline to be president.
Last year, he suggested U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was a racist, said Obama is best understood by his “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior,” and argued that placing a mosque near ground zero in New York City was akin to placing a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.
Earlier Friday, at a speech before a gathering of economic conservatives in Washington, Gingrich said General Electric’s aggressive legal and accounting strategy, which led to reports of a zero corporate tax liability last year, was a clever and rational response to the nation’s high tax rates.
Saying he wanted to slash an array of taxes and bureaucracies, Gingrich praised the author of the “Laffer Curve,” a theory that says unless taxes are kept low, individuals and corporations will invest less and seek ways to avoid paying taxes.
Gingrich cited GE. The company reported global profits of $14.2 billion last year, including $5.1 billion from U.S operations, but modest tax liabilities.
Gingrich said the 35 percent corporate tax rate should drop to 12.5 percent. He cited GE’s “remarkably rational behavior in recognizing the corporate tax rate is clearly past the Laffer curve point. And so 375 tax lawyers in the largest tax department in the world” devised “a very clever strategy which enabled General Electric to pay zero corporate taxes.”
After news organizations reported that GE might pay no corporate taxes for 2010, the company stated that it expects a “small U.S. income tax liability” for that year.
GE and others would pay more taxes at a 12.5 percent rate because they would consider it more fair and rational, Gingrich contended. He also urged eliminating the estate tax and extending President George W. Bush’s income tax cuts for high earners beyond 2013.
Expanding on his remarks, Gingrich told The AP it would be “absurd” to expect that any company would pay more than it legally had to. And he blamed the Obama administration for adopting a patchwork of tax credits and loopholes that effective encourage companies to hire lawyers to manipulate their returns.
“You should lower the tax rate and fire the lawyers,” he said.
Asked if he would encourage other companies to exploit loopholes to keep their taxes down, the author and one-time college professor said, “They already do.”
Gingrich was in Georgia the same day that Gov. Nathan Deal _ a key supporter and former House member_ signed a tough immigration law with some similarities to Arizona’s controversial law.
He said he had not read the law so he could not comment on it, but that he generally supported states and localities being able to enforce the law.
Gingrich has made efforts to reach out to Hispanic voters and said he doesn’t think that the tough GOP stance on illegal immigration has alienated the fast-growing minority group. “I do think we will have to work very hard to get that vote,” he said.
He called Obama’s recent address on immigration “very dishonest.”
“Obama has to answer the question: he’s had two years to pass a bill and he never made it a prority. Why should they trust that he will now?” he said.
Former Arkansas Gov., Mike Huckabee is set to announce on Saturday whether he will enter the Republican race for president.
Gingrich said he did not know what Huckabee would decide. But he said if Huckabee declines to run “I suspect it will make the road ahead for us somewhat easier.”
It was widely expected that Huckabee would have strong appeal with religious conservatives in Iowa and South Carolina, two early-voting states where Gingrich hopes to do well. If Huckabee remains out of the race, Gingrich would be one of the few Southerners in the contest and those votes could be for grab.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider