Newt Gingrich Claims He Is Not a ‘Washington Figure’ but a Candidate of Change

May 23, 2011 11:24am

ABC News' Arlette Saenz reports: At a breakfast with reporters Monday morning, Newt Gingrich claimed he is not a Washington insider, but instead he is a candidate offering change to the country.

"The reports of my campaign’s death were highly exaggerated," Gingrich said, quoting Mark Twain at his 36th Christian Science Monitor breakfast briefing. "I am not a Washington figure despite the years I’ve been here.  I’m essentially an American whose ties are across the country and whose interest is how do you change Washington, not how do you make Washington happy."

Coming off a week of stumping in Iowa and damage control after his appearance on “Meet the Press,” Gingrich continued to clarify his position on Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, saying his comments were the “wrong use of words,” but he believes Ryan’s plan is a good starting point for a conversation on Medicare with the American people.

“You have to win the debate over whether or not it’s important to improve Medicare and to find ways to get to a better Medicare system.  And you have to win the argument that the democrats are fundamentally irresponsible and dishonest,” Gingrich said.

The former speaker of the House, who served in Congress for 20 years, admitted he has changed positions on issues over the years, from the individual mandate to cap and trade to the need for greater decentralization, arguing it’s a natural progression based on the situations at hand.

Turning to his personal life, Gingrich said nothing is “off-limits” but argued that doesn’t mean he has to engage in it.

“We’re in a society in which gossip replaces serious policy and then everybody wrings their hand about how hard it is to have a serious conversation.  By definition, if you run for president, anything is on the table,” Gingrich said.  “But I don’t have to participate in the conversation.  I can focus on what I think the American people need to worry about.”

Regarding recent reports of his revolving account at Tiffany and Co., ranging from $250,000 to $500,000, Gingrich said he is  “totally mystified” over why it is an issue, saying his businesses have been successful and he is debt free.

“I owe no personal debts. None,” Gingrich said. “If Obama followed our pattern of fiscal responsibility, the United States would currently be running a surplus and buying back debt from the Chinese.”

And who does Gingrich believe will be the typical “Gingrich voter?”

“A person who believes America is seriously on the wrong track,” Gingrich said. “And it’s a person who believes we need a very strong leader who is prepared to fight if necessary to get Washington to change.”

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