Energy Fuels Newt Gingrich's Comeback Plan

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When voters in Michigan go the polls Tuesday, it's unlikely many will tick the box for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In part, that's because Gingrich has all but written off the state, leaving his opponents to fight over it.

In recent days, he's been focusing his attention on energy policy, promising that, if elected, he'd bring gas prices down to $2.50 a gallon. He links President Obama's energy policy, such as his recent decision to deny the permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline, to today's high gas prices.

Most energy experts say the president has almost no power over the price of gas – that it's determined by world events and global markets; yet Gingrich tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that there are indeed ways for a president to affect gas prices.

"The president of the United States has enormous capacity to enable the increased production of American oil and American gas," he says. "By deregulation, by opening up the Gulf, by opening up fields in Alaska, by opening up federal lands."

"If the U.S. goes back to being the largest producer of oil in the world, it will almost certainly bring down the price of oil," Gingrich says.

Right now, domestic oil production is actually at an eight-year high, and the number of domestic oil sources is growing. Whether or not that's affecting prices at the pump, Gingrich credits the production bump to sources on private land in North Dakota as opposed to federal land, where he says production is down.

Been Down Before, But He's Not Out

Gingrich is hoping this focus on energy will return him to front-runner status in the GOP race for the party's presidential nomination.

"My goal is to come back, repeat what we did in South Carolina, win a number of states on Super Tuesday and, on a very positive basis built around energy and $2.50 a gallon gasoline, build a majority and start winning decisively," he says.

That's why his campaign skipped over Michigan, so don't count him out for the nomination, he warns.

"I was supposedly dead back in June and July, and by December — without having bought a single ad, just on the power of positive, big ideas — I was ahead," he says.

Texas and California have yet to weigh in, as well. Gingrich says Texas Gov. Rick Perry believes virtually all of the state's 155 delegates will go to him.

"And I think, we have a very real shot because of the way California's now apportioned," he adds.

Damning Rivals With Faint Endorsements

Some Republicans have urged Gingrich to drop out of the race for the good of the party. He's down in the national polls, and many so-called "establishment Republicans" don't believe he'll recover.

"These are exactly the people who said in June it was hopeless," Gingrich says. "This has been a very up-and-down race. There's not a single state where [Mitt] Romney's met expectations. He is the weakest front-runner in modern times."

In the bitter fight between the two candidates, Gingrich has made it clear he doesn't believe the former Massachusetts governor to be a true conservative. Yet Gingrich says he'll still endorse Romney – IF he doesn't win the nomination himself.

"None of us want to see Barack Obama re-elected," he says. "We think it would be a disaster for the country."

"Romney's certainly not a radical on the scale of Obama, so it's a comparative decision," Gingrich says. "I think Obama's a genuinely dangerous radical who's out of touch with reality and whose vision of the world is fundamentally false. So I would gladly support either [Rick] Santorum or Romney if the alternative was Barack Obama."

And if Gingrich didn't win the nomination this time around, would he run again? "I have no idea, it's a long way off," he says, quickly adding, "since I intend to be the nominee this time, it's a moot question."

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