SOUTH EL MONTE, Calif. (AP) — Republican Newt Gingrich on Monday dismissed calls to drop out of the presidential contest in order to set up a direct contest between rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. The former House speaker insisted that his ideas and a new determination to stay positive would help him once again resuscitate his flagging candidacy.
“I think my ideas are much bolder than Santorum or Romney’s. I think my ideas are much clearer and more specific and I have to focus on communicating those ideas. Let’s see how it plays out,” Gingrich told reporters after addressing a Hispanic leadership event near Los Angeles. He is spending most of the week in California attending fundraisers.
Gingrich’s comments came as the National Review, an influential conservative magazine, published an editorial calling on Gingrich to step aside and endorse Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who has recently surged in polls. Santorum himself suggested in an interview Sunday that he would like Gingrich to clear the way.
Gingrich called the National Review article “silly” and said he had no intention of abandoning the race. He noted that he had been counted out several times before in the presidential race but had rallied back each time.
“The National Review wanted me to drop out in June,” Gingrich said, adding that he planned to revive his candidacy with policy speeches like the one he delivered Friday at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee. The speech was well received, but Gingrich nonetheless placed third in the group’s presidential straw poll.
Gingrich was riding high in polls before Iowa’s kickoff caucuses Jan. 3, before Restore Our Future, a super PAC backing Romney’s campaign, attacked him with negative ads casting him as a tainted Washington insider. The ads helped sink him to a weak fourth place finish there.
Gingrich came back to win a resounding victory in South Carolina’s primary Jan. 21, at which time he urged Santorum to consider dropping out. But Romney’s campaign, along with Restore Our Future, launched some $15 million in negative ads against Gingrich in Florida, crushing his momentum. Romney won Florida’s primary Jan. 31, and Gingrich has struggled to catch fire again while Santorum has surged.
Speaking to a Tea Party group in Pasadena, Gingrich depicted Santorum as a flash in the pan whose own candidacy had been nearly left for dead before he won contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado last week.
“He had a really good Tuesday and suddenly the same people who said I was dead in June are saying, ‘See, I told you so,'” Gingrich said. “I have a message for them — I’m still here.”
Hoping to mount yet another comeback, Gingrich has set his sights on states like Georgia and Ohio holding contests on Super Tuesday, March 6.
The four remaining Republican candidates, including Ron Paul, will meet for a nationally televised debate Feb. 22 in Arizona, which holds a primary Feb. 28, as does Michigan.
Gingrich showed no sign of backing off his vivid rhetoric when he suggested that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which he called “bigoted and anti-religious,” should be impeached for its recent ruling invalidating a California ballot initiative that had overturned gay marriage rights in the state.
Gingrich edged out of a potentially embarrassing exchanged with Orly Taitz, a California dentist who pioneered the “birther” movement questioning whether President Barack Obama had been born in the United States and therefore eligible to be president. Taitz suggested to Gingrich that he should pursue the debunked birther agenda as a way to propel his campaign.
“Somebody who wouldn’t be good enough, who wouldn’t be certified to pick tomatoes or clean bathrooms is sitting in the White House,” Taitz told Gingrich, to gasps and some applause from the tea party audience.
Gingrich demurred and said, “I think I have enough issues to debate Obama with.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)