ABC News' Michael Falcone reports:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Think you've heard the last of Newt Gingrich? Think again.
The former House Speaker and unsuccessful presidential candidate sounds like he's back and, by the standing ovation he received at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting in Charlotte, better than ever.
In characteristic fashion he counseled his fellow Republicans on Thursday to be "cheerful and persistent" as they continue their period of post-election soul searching.
"We need to learn to be a happy party," he said. (It was Gingrich, who at a Republican primary debate last February, was asked to describe himself in one word. "Cheerful," he replied at the time.)
But Gingrich expressed no such cheer about the message Mitt Romney communicated during the presidential campaign, in particular the GOP nominee's hidden-camera comments that 47 percent of Americans would vote for Obama "no matter what" because they are people "who are dependent upon government."
"I am for 100 percent of the American people believing that they have a party that cares about their future," Gingrich said during the luncheon speech, adding that he wanted every Republican consultant to know this: "If you think you're going to target less than 100 percent you're not going to get any more business."
His remarks were equal parts scold session and pep talk.
He described the GOP as "a party on offense on every level except the presidency" and urged his fellow party leaders to "draw a contrast with the incompetence of Obama's reforms and the competence" of Republican governors and GOP state legislators around the country who are spearheading innovative ideas.
"Think of Newt as a guy who saw firsthand where the party went wrong in 2012 and is working to make sure it never happens again," a Gingrich aide told ABC News.
In his remarks to a ballroom full of Republicans two-and-a-half months since Romney's Nov. 6 loss, Gingrich acknowledged that he was "as wrong election night as anybody else," recalling that his first indication Obama was poised to win re-election was during a conference call hosted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz at about 5: 30 p.m. that night.
"I felt like a pilot whose radar had pointed him straight into a mountain," Gingrich said.
The former House Speaker said he would be working closing with the RNC and its chairman, Reince Priebus ("as closely with Reince as he can tolerate," he clarified) to help chart the party's course forward.
"I'm prepared to say bluntly what we need to do," Gingrich told several hundred GOP leaders from across the country, "and I'm prepared to pick fights with people that don't' want to do it."