Newt Gingrich Says Grandchildren Are the Key to Debate Success

Winslow Townson/AP Photo

As Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich prepares for the CBS/National Journal debate tonight, he told ABC News that most of his preparation will come from his adolescent grandson, Robert.

“He’s very smart,” Gingrich said. “He beat me three out of four chess games, he coaches me.”

Gingrich also boasted about his granddaughter being a ballerina and that she helps Gingrich with his “performance style.”

Gingrich’s daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman told ABC News she understands that her children are growing up a lot like she did.

“I was seven when he first ran and then he was first selected when I was 11, I try to remember that when I’m dealing with my children,” Cushman said. “Having grown up in a different limelight and similar, my job is to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground.”

Gingrich does bring his grandchildren to some appearances. Gingrich said when he did a Sean Hannity appearance last week, his two grandchildren were playing with Hannity’s children.

“Her two children and Hannity’s kids were all out back playing football,” Gingrich said. “They were in their own world, they were doing their thing.”

While speaking at a tail-gate party at Furman University today in Greenville, S.C., Gingrich introduced his grandson to the crowd and shared one of his pre-debate rituals.

“This is one of my two debate coaches,” Gingrich said. “The other, Maggie is at ballet practice.”

Gingrich said if you ever look at him as a debate is starting when the candidates are first introduced, you’ll see him writing something.

“I write a smiley and ‘Maggie’ under it be because she ‘s my smiling coach. And under that, I write ‘Robert’… shorter clearer. That’s what he said was wrong with my speeches when I asked him one day, he said I needed to be shorter and clearer with my answers,” Gingrich said.

While the crowd of about 200 people swarmed the former speaker of the house for pictures and hand-shaking, Gingrich’s grandson was right at the edge of the crowd taking pictures with the campaign communication director’s camera.

He weaved in and out of the crowd attempting to take pictures of his grandfather.

Gingrich said he’s not sure how his grandson will choose to prepare him for tonight’s debate, but he said when people say he does well at debates, his grandson is one of the people who has guided him so far.