Fans of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have been salivating over the possibility of what they see as the debate of the century: Gingrich vs. President Obama. And if Gingrich earns the GOP nomination but the president hesitates, he has a plan to force Obama's hand.
"The White House will be my scheduler," Gingrich said on the St. Louis-based conservative talk radio program The Dana Show Tuesday. "I will appear four hours after Obama everywhere he goes for the duration of the campaign, and I will answer each of his speeches."
Gingrich said he'd announce such a plan during his acceptance speech, and he's confident Obama will comply. "The negative publicity that will get him—in the sense that he'll be constantly running away—and the fact that it gives me the advantage of always being the guy with the answer," Gingrich said, "I suspect at some point he'll decide it's easier just to agree to debate me."
Supporters imagine a verbal bloodbath, with Gingrich routing Obama, who they say would have to use a teleprompter to have a shade of a chance. Others hanker for such a debate simply because both men are considered highly academic and intelligent and would put on an interesting show.
But Gingrich didn't claim responsibility for coming up with his plan to force a debate. That credit went to then Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln, who followed his competitor, incumbent Sen. Stephen Douglas, around Illinois in 1958, typically giving a speech one day after Douglas, in the same location.
"Given modern television news and talk radio, you'd do it four hours later," Gingrich explained. "You could probably follow him two or three times a day."
The former speaker added that Obama would be compelled to agree, even just on an "ego basis," he said.
"How does a Columbia/Harvard graduate, who was the editor of the law review, … supposedly the best orator in the Democratic Party," Gingrich said, "How does he look himself in the mirror and say he's afraid to debate a West Georgia College [now University of West Georgia] professor?"