WASHINGTON -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he believes the election emboldens House Republicans to pursue a conservative path, despite the disappointing showing of Mitt Romney and Republican Senate candidates.
"Remember: both the House Republicans and the president have a mandate," Gingrich, defeated in the GOP presidential primary, told conservative radio host Sean Hannity on Monday. "It's very wrong to suggest that only the president has a mandate. The House Republicans also have a mandate, and it's a much more conservative mandate than the president's."
The GOP maintained its majority in the House, but lost some of its right-wing members. Outspoken Tea Party freshmen, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), both were defeated in close races, and former presidential candidate and Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) barely scraped out a win.
Gingrich told Hannity he was shocked at Romney's loss to President Barack Obama on Nov. 6. But he cautioned that this election cycle's Democratic swing doesn't reflect a rejection of conservative values.
"It's going to require some deep serious thinking," Gingrich said. "But conservative ideas and values stay around because they work. ... Socialism and liberalism only work as long as they have other people's money to spend."
Minority voters share many conservative values, Gingrich said. But Republicans failed to convince these crucial voting blocs because they were unable to mount a conservative "freedom" argument against the "collectivist" argument of Democrats.
Until the GOP can get over its hard-line position on immigration reform, Gingrich said, the party will be unable to connect with Latinos and Asian Americans.
"There are a lot of [minority] people out there whose values are actually very close to ours," he said, adding, "They just don't think that they are allowed to vote Republican. And the Republican Party doesn't do very much to encourage them to vote Republican."
Other members of the Republican establishment have views similar to Gingrich's. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is in talks with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) over pursuing a new deal on immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for undocumented people already in the U.S., and Hannity himself reversed his position on the subject last week.
But moving away from a mass deportation policy won't be enough, Gingrich said. The Republican Party also needs to think strategically about developing an election ground game.
"The Republican Party's entire campaign doctrine is 30-second attack commercials with hundreds of billions of dollars spent in September and October," Gingrich said. "But the fact is we are in a situation where we need to go out and spend a fair amount of that money two to three years out, building a party big enough and deep enough so that we can compete in these communities. If we can't compete in these communities, it doesn't matter what our ads say."
Gingrich stands in contrast to the approach fostered by outside conservative groups like Karl Rove's American Crossroads, which spent billions of dollars to flood the airwaves with negative campaign advertising. Rove came up short in the vast majority of his contests, sparking commentary over whether he had wasted more than $300 million in contributions by overplaying the political ad.