Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich held a conference call for Iowans this morning to fight back against attacks on his campaign and to ask to for caucus volunteers. Gingrich is not campaigning in Iowa this weekend and reportedly took time off the trail for private events.
Gingrich said today he plans to hold the calls routinely until the Iowa caucus.
"I saw an article that said there's been so many negative mailings, so many different hit pieces and so many negative ads that we just decided that we would [hold the calls] from now to the caucus on a regular basis," Gingrich said.
Gingrich said they will give Iowans a chance to ask questions about any negative ad they might receive.
"I feel badly about having to have this kind of a phone call just to dispel negative things, as all of you know, I've tried very hard to campaign on a positive basis," Gingrich said. "I'm going to continue my campaign on a positive basis but I'm regularly going to do these kinds of calls so people can ask any question they want to."
Gingrich went on to refute what he called attacks on his conservative record. Gingrich previously said he had balanced the budget all four years as speaker of the House, but as several fact-checking organizations pointed out, he was only responsible for two of those years and could not take credit for the years after he resigned. Today, Gingrich changed the tone of his campaign line, saying he led the efforts.
"As speaker, I was able to lead the way to four consecutive balanced budgets for the federal government, the only time in your lifetime, so that's pretty conservative," Gingrich said.
Gingrich attempted to explain the reported $1.6 million he received from Freddie Mac for what Gingrich claims was a consulting job for the failed home mortgage corporation.
"I just want to set the record straight. We had a company, the company had three different offices, we were paid annually for six years, so the numbers you see are for six years of work, most of the money went to pay for the overhead for staff, for other things that didn't go directly to me, it went to the company which provided consulting advice," Gingrich said.
Gingrich also repeated the claim that he did not lobby for Freddie Mac. Candidate Michele Bachmann said Thursday at the Fox News debate that Gingrich used his position to influence Republicans to view Freddie Mac more favorably.
"I have never once advocated that people do something for Fanny or Freddie. I do not in any way work on influence per se," Gingrich said. "I'm a public figure, I make public speeches. Everybody can go look at what I've said in public. I actually suggested they needed more regulations."
The campaign and Gingrich asked multiple times on the call for precinct captains for the Iowa caucus and caucus speaker volunteers, prodding those who called in for the "tele-town hall" to sign up. The campaign did not return a request for the number of people who called into the town hall or the number of those who signed up to volunteer at the caucus.
"I'd be very, grateful to those who would feel comfortable enough to be a speaker, we'll provide you all the material you need and I'd be very, very grateful if you'd be willing to be a precinct captain by pressing two," Gingrich said several times throughout the call.
The Iowa caucus are scheduled for place Jan. 3.