Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a strategy to stay competitive through 2012's early primaries and caucuses: stay positive, focus on ideas, and campaign slow and steady. "I think we have the tortoise campaign," he says. "We've seen several rabbits run by and then fall asleep, so now we just want to keep moving forward."
Gingrich, who spoke with reporters at a National Republican Lawyers Association event on Capitol Hill Wednesday night, is optimistic he'll finish in the top two or three in New Hampshire and Iowa, and he thinks he'll win South Carolina. In fact, he points to his third place slot in Tuesday's CBS/New York Times poll: Sen. John McCain also polled third at this point in 2007, behind former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani and former Sen. Fred Thomson, before going on to win the nomination. "I think the odds are very good I'll be the nominee," he says. "I think you'll see a very idea-oriented, very positive campaign in the next 30 days."
Indeed, he stops short of criticizing his opponents, maintaining the above-the-fray, adult persona he exhibits in the debates. When asked about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent flat tax plan, Gingrich calls it "very reasonable" and "in the right general direction," but adds that his own plan is slightly bolder. "I have great respect for what [Perry]'s done, and while we could argue over some details, it is so different from Obama's tax increases," he says. "It shows that Perry and I are pretty close together compared to Obama."
And one of the big ideas Gingrich says he'll focus his campaign on in the near future is brain health, specifically centered around Alzheimer's, autism, Parkinson's, and other mental health issues—not a typical campaign issue. "Brain science affects millions of people, and it is probably the best opportunity to save money in the next 25 years," he says. "Alzheimer's alone will cost one and a half times the current total federal debt between now and 2050."
But one challenge of focusing on "solutions as big as the problems," according to Gingrich, is the media. "You just watch the next month, as I begin to explain brain science," he says. "Watch how hard it is to get reporters to go slow enough to learn something that new and that different."