WASHINGTON -- Newt Gingrich took a stance on immigration unpopular with many in the Republican party in a primary debate Tuesday night, and will now have to wait to see if he is punished for it by conservatives.
Gingrich, who has come from the back of the pack in the Republican presidential primary to lead in many national polls, refused to play along with the idea -- expressed implicitly by some other candidates -- that the only solution to the problem of undocumented immigration is to deport the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.
"I don't see how the -- the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century," Gingrich said. "And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families."
With his answer, the former speaker of the House from Georgia risked suffering the same fate as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who told those who disagree with his support for in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants that they "don't have a heart," and suffered for it badly with the conservative base.
Gingrich knew what he was doing. He took a long pause before doubling down on his position, after he was criticized by both Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families, and expel them," he said.
Gingrich began a discussion on immigration by talking about the need for something like a "World War II selective service board" to review the cases of all those in the country without citizenship. After he finished his first answer on immigration, Bachmann, a Tea Party firebrand whose candidacy has faded and needs a spark, pressed Gingrich by saying that he favored "amnesty."
"I don't agree that you would make 11 million workers legal because that in effect is amnesty. And I also don't agree that you would give the Dream Act on a federal level. And those are two things that I believe that the speaker had been for, and he can speak for himself," Bachmann said.
Gingrich has praised parts of the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for some young people who came to the United States without documentation.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who moderated the debate at DAR Constitution Hall, turned to Romney and pressed him for an answer on the subject. Romney gave a circuitous response that in essence amounted to a rejection and condemnation of Gingrich's position.
"Look, amnesty is a magnet," Romney said. "What when we have had in the past, programs that have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that's going to only encourage more people to come here illegally."
When asked a second time by Blitzer whether Gingrich's idea would "entice others to come to this country illegally," Romney said, "There's no question."
"But to say that we're going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you're all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing," he said.
Unlike Perry, who has acknowledged many times that he is not a good debater, Gingrich is a nuanced and articulate spokesman. He argued eloquently for an approach to immigration reform that nonetheless is labeled as "amnesty" by many conservatives simply because it does not favor deporting all those in the country undocumented.
"If you've come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home period," Gingrich said. "If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids, two grandkids, paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church -- I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out."
"The Krieble Foundation has a very good red card program that says you get to be legal but you don't get a path to citizenship. So there's a way to ultimately end up with a country where there's no more illegality, but you haven't automatically given amnesty to anyone," Gingrich said.
Perry was more open to providing some sort of path to citizenship or residency for some undocumented immigrants, although he said it couldn't be done until the border with Mexico is secured.
"I do think that there is a way that after we secure that border, that you can have a process in place for individuals who are law-abiding citizens, who have done only one thing -- as Newt says, 25 years ago or whatever that period of time was -- that you can put something in place that basically continues to keep those families together. But the idea that we're having this long and lengthy conversation here, until we have a secure border, is just an intellectual exercise," Perry said.
Romney replied that he wasn't going to "start drawing lines here about who gets to stay and who gets to go."
"The point is that we are not going to have an amnesty system that says that people that come here illegally get to stay here for the rest of their life legally," he added.
The progressive Center for American Progress has estimated that it would cost U.S. taxpayers $285 billion to deport the estimated 10.8 million undocumented immigrants in the United States over five years.
Attacks on Gingrich came immediately after the immigration exchange. Bachmann's campaign sent out a release during the debate labeled, "Newt Gingrich's Open Door to Illegal Immigrant Amnesty."
In the spin room after the debate, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom slammed Gingrich for his comments.
"Mitt Romney is against amnesty, and Newt Gingrich made it very clear he was for amnesty," Fehrnstrom told the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein.
When Klein pressed Fehrnstrom on whether Romney favors deporting those who are undocumented, the Romney spokesman got testy.
"I just answered your question Phil, and you keep hectoring me about it," Fehrnstrom said. "You turn off the magnets, no in-state tuition, no benefits of any kind, no employment. You put in place an employment verification system with penalties for employers that hire illegals, that will shut off access to the job market, and they will self retreat. They will go to their countries."
Dana Loesch, a Tea Party activist from St. Louis who is a CNN contributor, said right after the debate that the immigration issue "blew up in Newt Gingrich's face."
"He had a Rick Perry heartless moment with this. I think this is really going to impact him tomorrow. It's really going to impact him with grassroots conservatives," Loesch said.
In an interview with CNN afterward, Gingrich said Bachmann's charge that he favors amnesty is "just totally inaccurate."
"I want to say 'go home' to lots of people. I want to create a border that is controlled. I want a guest worker program outsourced to American Express or Visa or Mastercard. I want English as the official language of government," Gingrich said. "I'm willing to be tough, but I'm not willing to kid people. And I can't imagine any serious person here in this country who believes that we ought to tear families apart that have been here 20 or 25 years."
CNN followed that up with an interview with Bachmann.
"He wants to legalize 11 million illegal immigrants," she said. "It sounds like amnesty to me."
A Bachmann spokeswoman did not respond when asked in an email whether the congresswoman believes that all people in the U.S. without proper documentation should be deported.
The slideshow below has more details on Newt Gingrich:
Speaking the day before the Delaware primary, Gingrich hinted he was considering ending his presidential run: "I think we need to take a deep look at what we are doing," Gingrich said in an interview with NBC News during a campaign stop in Delaware. "We will be in North Carolina tomorrow night and we will look and see what the results are." According to NBC, the former House speaker said he would need to "reassess" based on the results of Tuesday's primary in Delaware, a state where Gingrich has spent a great deal of time campaigning in recent weeks. Gingrich indicated that the state's 17 delegates were crucial to his viability as a candidate.
"The money is very tight, obviously," Newt Gingrich admitted about his struggling campaign after laying off about a third of his staff, including his campaign manager. Gingrich is trying new ways to raise money, including charging supporters $50 to take a photo with him.
Another week, another major loss for Gingrich. Although he largely bypassed campaigning in Illinois, instead spending primary day in Louisiana, his numbers at the end of the night were remarkably poor. Gingrich finished in fourth place, behind the also-struggling Ron Paul. Unsurprisingly, Gingrich maintained he had no intention of leaving the race. He continued to question Mitt Romney's conservative bonafides, tweeting on primary night that there was "still time for a conservative."
Newt Gingrich has said that there's probably no circumstance that would lead him to leave the race before the convention, quoting a passage from the Bible. Not all of his delegates, however, are making the same comittment - several have switched over to rival Rick Santorum.
Gingrich's campaign was hurt by losses to Rick Santorum in Alabama and Mississippi, states he'd predicted he would win. But Gingrich has insisted that he'll remain in the race and take down Mitt Romney, perhaps by partnering with Rick Santorum. Elise Foley reports: He came nowhere close to counting himself out, but Gingrich spent significant time during his speech, and on Fox News later, discussing how his remaining in the race could hurt Romney -- barely going after Santorum and instead talking about how they could work together to hurt the "Massachusetts moderate." Later, a senior Gingrich adviser floated the idea of a Santorum-Gingrich ticket, suggesting the campaign may be weaker than aides let on.
Gingrich won his home state of Georgia on Super Tuesday, but saw a weak finish in the other contests that day. The candidate's path to victory, or at the least staying in the race, now hangs on the South. Gingrich's Southern Strategy is to double down on Alabama and Mississippi, and abandon campaign efforts in other states. However the Southern primaries might not be the last chance for the former House Speaker. From the AP: Even a poor showing next week may not force Gingrich out of the race. Much could depend on whether billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has contributed millions to a political action committee backing Gingrich, writes yet another check.
On Super Tuesday, Newt Gingrich is hoping to revive his campaign with a win in his home state of Georgia. Georgia has 76 delegates up for grabs, the most of any Super Tuesday state.
Reversing early statements, Newt Gingrich's staff announced that he wouldn't campaign in Michigan. Instead, Gingrich is pinning his hopes - and his campaign - on Super Tuesday states including Oklahoma. But the campaign's funding - and Gingrich's own financial issues - have come under increasing scrutiny, HuffPost's Christina Wilkie reports: Gingrich's presidential campaign is basically broke. The latest financial disclosure reports show that his campaign closed out the month of January with $1.73 million in debt and a scant $1.79 million in cash on hand, just enough to cover expenses that included private jets and unusually large personal reimbursements. The highly publicized injection of more than $11 million from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson into a super PAC backing Gingrich's campaign has fueled the perception that Gingrich is flush, but Adelson's money won't keep the lights on at campaign headquarters. Instead of withdrawing from the race, as candidates typically do when they run out of money, Gingrich has barreled ahead. In the past month, he has hired additional staff, made costly trips to California and Arizona, and scheduled a week's worth of campaign appearances in Tennessee and his home state of Georgia ahead of the March 6 Super Tuesday primaries.
Facing a loss of momentum in his campaign, Newt Gingrich delivered a fiery speech at the 2012 CPAC, The Huffington Post's Jon Ward reports: It was the same laundry list of topics and to-do's that have characterized Gingrich's speeches after primary contests. He gave similar remarks after his South Carolina win and after his Florida loss. Its thematic core was that he is a "mortal threat" to the establishment. An establishment candidate cannot win the general election, Gingrich said, because "they don't have the toughness, they don't have the commitment and they don't have the philosophy necessary." "We intend to change Washington, not accommodate it," he said.
Newt Gingrich's campaign didn't get any breaks when three states went to the polls on Feb. 7. He finished behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in both Colorado and Minnesota, and failed to even qualify for the Missouri ballot, after dedicating the majority of his resources and time to future primary events. Without another debate until Feb. 22, Gingrich needs other opportunities to regain momentum - such as a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday. Gingrich's campaign says he will also focus on running in Southern states.
Newt Gingrich's presidential bid suffered another setback after a brutal loss to Mitt Romney in the Nevada caucus. Gingrich came in second place with just over 20 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, Gingrich again promised he would stay in the race all the way to the convention. His apparent strategy is to achieve a serious of wins between now and then, but experts say the upcoming caucuses and primaries in February will be difficult for the former speaker to win. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports: The month of February, which brings with it a slate of primaries and caucuses that favor either Romney or Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), promises to be brutal for Gingrich. His campaign is reportedly low on cash. He has no formal infrastructure in place in most states and didn't even make it on Virginia's ballot. Pressed on all these points, however, his responses drifted between insolence and confusion.
After a disappointing 14-point loss to rival Mitt Romney in the Florida primary on Jan. 31, Newt Gingrich pledged once again to continue his campaign all the way to the convention. The campaign distributed signs to the crowd that read '46 States to Go.' Gingrich told supporters, "We are going to contest every place and we are going to win, and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August." Gingrich took his campaign on to Nevada, where Romney is favored to win the upcoming caucus. In a blow to Gingrich's White House bid, conservative celebrity Donald Trump endorsed Romney Tuesday, after false reports circulated that Trump would back Gingrich.
Newt Gingrich went into Florida with a wave of momentum after an upset win in South Carolina, but has been unable to maintain frontrunner status. The latest poll shows Gingrich's support is sinking, with just 29 percent of Floridians backing the candidate. Presidential rival Mitt Romney has ramped up attacks against the former Speaker, hitting Gingrich hard during the last GOP debate and with negative ads running throughout the Sunshine State. Multiple polls show Romney now leading Gingrich by a comfortable margin. Still, Gingrich said he is in the race for the long haul, and will not drop out after Florida regardless of the results. He has promised repeatedly to take his campaign "all the way to the convention."
As Newt Gingrich surges, questions resurface about the ethics charges filed against him during his time as Speaker of the House in the 1990s. GOP rival Mitt Romney has called on Gingrich to release the full report from the ethics investigation, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has hinted she has damaging dirt on Gingrich. Gingrich has resounded by saying he was exonerated of all charges, that the $300,000 fine was for the cost of the investigation, not a penalty fine, and that he voluntarily resigned in order to put the issue in the past.
Newt Gingrich's ex-wife Marianne Gingrich appeared on ABC News in January to share inside information about the presidential hopeful. Marianne again recounted Gingrich's infidelity during their marriage, and then said Gingrich asked her to enter into an open marriage so he could continue consorting with Callista Bisek, his current wife. From ABC's interview: GINGRICH: I said to him, we've been married a long time. And he said, yes, but you want me all to yourself. Callista doesn't care what I do. ROSS: What was he saying to you, do you think? GINGRICH: He was asking to have an open marriage, and I refused. ROSS: He wanted an open marriage. GINGRICH: Yeah, that I accept the fact that he has somebody else in his life. ROSS: And you said? GINGRICH: No. No. That is not a marriage. Gingrich claimed the story as false, and said he offered ABC News the chance to interview personal friends that could prove it was false. But the Gingrich later campaign later admitted the former Speaker's response was a lie, ABC reported. Days after Marianne revealed just how far Gingrich tried to take his infidelity, he won South Carolina's primary election with 40 percent of the vote, including the conservative, 'values' voters that make up a large chunk of the state.
Newt Gingrich scored a big victory in South Carolina's critical primary, winning with 40 percent of the vote and a double-digit lead over Mitt Romney. Gingrich carried the momentum into Florida, where polls show he continues to rise and is closing in on Mitt Romney for the lead.
In South Carolina, Newt Gingrich quickly rose again, catching up with frontrunner Mitt Romney. HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reports, six new polls show Gingrich and Romney running essentially even among likely Republican primary voters. Gingrich's campaign got a boost on Jan. 19 when Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he would drop out of the presidential race and endorse the former speaker. "Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?" Perry said. From the AP: While the ultimate impact of Perry's decision is unclear, it reduced the number of conservative challengers to Mitt Romney. The decision also reinforced the perception that Gingrich is the candidate on the move in the final hours of the South Carolina campaign, and that the front-running Romney is struggling to hold onto his longtime lead. Gingrich addressed Perry's endorsement in a statement: I am humbled and honored to have the support of my friend Rick Perry ... His selflessness is yet another demonstration of his deep sense of citizenship and commitment to the cause of limited government, historic American values and greater freedom for every American. On the same day Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said she would not be backing Gingrich. In a statement released before Perry's announcement, Bachmann said she would endorse a candidate soon, but that person would definitely not be Gingrich. It is "strikingly obvious that one candidate could not be less acceptable to be our Party's nominee. He lacks the poise, experience and moral fiber to represent our principles and values," Bachmann said.
Throughout Gingrich's surge this autumn, he promised to run a positive campaign and not run negative attack ads against his opponents. But the strategy proved problematic for the candidate, made worse when frontrunner candidate Mitt Romney's super PAC launched a barrage of attack ads against Gingrich ahead of the Iowa caucus. Gingrich rapidly sank in the polls and ended up with a poor finish in Iowa. Mark Blumenthal reported: The rapid fall of Newt Gingrich from front-runner to also-ran was put into motion, at least in part, by an unprecedented wave of negative advertisements run in Iowa in December by his opponents and their allied Super PACs. The wave of ads left Gingrich complaining on Sunday that he had been "Romney-boated" and suggesting that his main rival would "buy the election if he could." How much impact did the negative ads have? The answer is difficult to quantify, since news coverage that repeated and added validity to many of the attack lines helped cut Gingrich's support nationwide. But the sheer volume of attacks advertising aired against Gingrich is staggering. As Gingrich's campaign began to take a downward spiral, he shifted away from his promise not to go negative. While campaigning in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Gingrich's attacks against Romney have escalated.
After falling in the polls over the summer, Gingrich began to challenge Mitt Romney for frontrunner status in November. HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reported in mid-November: A survey of Republicans conducted by CNN and ORC International shows Gingrich supporters increasing from 8 percent in mid-October to 22 percent over the weekend, just 2 points behind Romney supporters (at 24 percent, although the small gap between the two is not statistically significant). Meanwhile, Cain's support in the CNN polls has fallen 11 points (from 25 to 14 percent). A new automated telephone poll of likely Republican primary voters from the Democratic-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling similarly shows Gingrich gaining 13 points (from 15 to 28 percent), but its results for Cain and Romney are different. PPP shows a smaller decline for Cain (from 30 to 25 percent) and puts Romney well behind (at 18 percent). Blumenthal went on to note that Gingrich's surge is different than those before it because they were accompanied by increases in the candidate's name recognition. Voters have long known who Gingrich is, but his favorability rating has grown steadily since hitting a low in June.
The Gingrich campaign took some big hits over a period of a few weeks this summer, first losing its stock of senior aides, then its finance team. These setbacks, which built on negative publicity driven by questions about Gingrich's personal spending habits (see slide 4), appeared to cement his status as a second-tier candidate. Earlier polling, before the field of GOP primary candidates had actually been fleshed out, had placed Gingrich as a top three contender. According to more recent reports, this slide also took a toll on his profitable political empire.
At the height of Gingrich's political relevance in the 1990s, the then-speaker of the House made a push for private charities to replace public welfare programs. He set up his own tax-exempt nonprofit to help lead the way, but subsequent reports showed that he didn't always walk the walk when it came to effectively moving funds from his organization to his charitable causes. HuffPost's Jason Cherkis reported in May: But tax records show that Gingrich's subsequent endeavors, however successful they've been at keeping Newt's name in the news, have been much less effective when it comes to the more traditional purpose of nonprofit organizations: Doing something useful for society. Gingrich, a prolific fundraiser, has been able to make it rain on Gingrich Holdings. The charitable ventures that bear his name, on the other hand, have suffered a drought. Click here and scroll down for more on the giving habits of the rest of the 2012 presidential candidates.
In May, Gingrich took some serious heat for a massive bill at Tiffany's jewelry store that seemed to contradict his professed fiscal conservatism. Politico reported at the time: In 2005 and 2006, the former House speaker turned presidential candidate carried as much as $500,000 in debt to the premier jewelry company, according to financial disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress for two decades, retired in 1999. But his wife, Callista Gingrich, was employed by the House Agriculture Committee until 2007, according to public records. She listed a "revolving charge account" at Tiffany and Company in the liability section of her personal financial disclosure form for two consecutive years and indicated that it was her spouse's debt. The liability was reported in the range of $250,001 to $500,000. The controversy was revived a month later when it turned out that Gingrich actually had a second line of credit at Tiffany for as much as $1 million. None of these stories helped beat back reports that his campaign was then struggling to stay afloat amid a shortage of funds.
For all his efforts to appear as someone who's distanced himself from Washington politics, much of Gingrich's campaign rhetoric harkens back to his previous life as an elected official. During a debate in September, Gingrich pointed to one of his successes from the 1990s. "Let me say, I helped balance the budget for four straight years, so this is not a theory," Gingrich said. The former speaker has also sought to revamp the "Contract with America," a series of proposed governmental reforms and policy changes first unveiled in 1994 that its drafters, including Gingrich, said would help shrink government, promote lower taxes and spur entrepreneurial investment. At the end of September, Gingrich released his "21st Century Contract With America," an eight-year vision for the nation that would, among other initiatives, partially privatize Social Security and repeal President Obama's health care law.
Gingrich has established himself as a staple of inside-the-beltway politics, which can be a turnoff for many GOP primary voters. He's written many books, sold his speeches to adoring conservative fans and spearheaded the creation of campaign and fundraising apparatuses for Republican candidates and causes. Now as a candidate for president, Gingrich is faced with the task of convincing potential voters that he's not simply a Washington politics insider. HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reported earlier on one of Gingrich's strange efforts to confront this problem head on: Newt Gingrich likes to portray himself as an outsider, shunned from the exclusive inner circles of Washington, D.C. -- despite having once been the capitol's most powerful Republican lawmaker. Continuing this split persona on Tuesday, Gingrich gave a speech hammering the new "super Congress" and "Washington elites," but he chose to do so at one of the nation's most established conservative think tanks. During his speech at the Heritage Foundation, Gingrich delivered such populist lines as, "You lead Washington by leading America. You don't lead America by leading Washington," yet drew some scrutiny for his decision to deliver the speech at an elite Washington think tank, rather than on the stump in a primary state, like his rivals.
Newton Leroy Gingrich entered Washington politics as a Georgia congressman in 1979 and exited in 1999 after resigning his position as speaker of the House. His four-year speakership is most frequently noted in conservative circles for his success in pressuring President Bill Clinton to sign a conservative welfare reform package into law and overseeing a short period of balanced or near-balanced budgets. He also received a large share of the blame for the 1995 government shutdown, when the public saw him as a stubborn politician more willing to allow the government to run out of funds than to compromise. But beyond the capital he's cultivated in the conservative movement, Gingrich's real political credentials have always been undercut by his personal history. He's had three wives. He reportedly brought divorce papers to his first wife while she was in a hospital bed recovering from uterine cancer (though this narrative was denied by both Gingrich and his daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, in a recent report). His eventual separation from his second wife was less dramatic, but no less memorable. According to an extensive profile in Esquire, he told Marianne Gingrich that she was a "Jaguar" and that "all I want is a Chevrolet." That brought him to his third marriage to Callista Gingrich, who was a House staffer when she began an affair with her eventual husband.