Newt Gingrich was off the trail and on the air Sunday, two days ahead of the Super Tuesday Republican presidential contests in Georgia and nine other states.
Gingrich spent the day at home in McLean, Va., to celebrate the birthday of his wife, Callista, and also appear on five Sunday morning talk shows.
On the programs he faced skepticism about his chances for securing the nomination: Gingrich trails in polls and delegates, as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have dominated the national discussion in recent weeks and Gingrich’s only primary win came Jan. 21 in South Carolina.
A revival, Gingrich insisted, begins Tuesday in Georgia.
On CNN’s State of the Union, Gingrich predicted he would win a “very, very decisive victory” in the state he once represented in Congress, a statement backed up by a new poll for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showing Gingrich ahead by double digits.
But beyond Georgia the outlook is less favorable for Gingrich. He said he will “do pretty well I think” in Ohio, Tennessee and Oklahoma. But polls show Gingrich trailing Santorum and Romney in all three states.
In Tennessee a Gingrich campaign co-chair, state Sen. Stacey Campfield, flipped to the Santorum camp Saturday, saying that Santorum “is the best chance we can get to have a conservative president.”
As he has in paid robo-calls to voters in Tennessee and Oklahoma, Gingrich attacked Santorum on Sunday as being in the pocket of labor unions during his time in Congress.
“He voted against national right to work,” Gingrich said on ABC’s This Week. “He voted for Davis-Bacon, which cost state and local governments billions of dollars in favor of unions. And he voted for every single minimum wage increase that the unions asked for. So, I think there's some pretty big policy differences there. And when you get out of the industrial states, I think it gets harder for Rick to put together a majority, so we'll see how it goes next Tuesday.”
The Davis-Bacon Act is a Depression-era law guaranteeing "prevailing wages" for workers on government contracts. Republicans have attempted to repeal it at various points, calling it a handout to unions, and in 1996 Santorum cast a Senate vote in favor of keeping it.
Gingrich said he expects to win Mississippi and Alabama, which hold March 13 primaries, and compete in the March 10 Kansas caucuses. He’s scheduled to visit all three states this week.
Gingrich said he is even looking ahead to Texas and California, the two states with the biggest delegate prizes but which do not vote until late May and early June. Gingrich has spent several days recently in California, primarily to raise money.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a major supporter of President Barack Obama, appeared on a Meet the Press roundtable after Gingrich. He said a lengthy primary race is damaging Romney.
"What’s happening is the core conservatives, meaning Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, are really damaging Mitt Romney and they’re damaging on every front,” Reed said. “He can’t talk about Bain [Capital] because they’ve attacked him on Bain for job destruction. He can’t talk about the [2002 Salt Lake City] Olympics because they’ve turned that into a commentary on earmarks. He can’t talk about being governor of Massachusetts because his signature bill was the healthcare bill. But the problem that he has is he has true conservatives who are making these attacks as opposed to Democrats.”
The Sunday hosts repeatedly pressed Gingrich about the controversy surrounding conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who this week called a female law student a “slut” after she testified to congressional Democrats in support of mandatory contraception coverage in health care plans.
Gingrich said he was pleased that Limbaugh apologized to Sandra Fluke, but that the overall controversy is “silly.”
When NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory brought up Limbaugh, Gingrich started shaking his head.
“You know, David, I am astonished at the desperation of the elite media to avoid rising gas prices, to avoid the President's apology to religious fanatics in Afghanistan, to avoid a trillion-dollar deficit, to avoid the longest period of unemployment since the Great Depression, and to suddenly decide that Rush Limbaugh is the great national crisis of this week,” he said.
On CNN’s State of the Union, Gingrich said the popular radio commentator does not speak for the GOP.
“The Republican Party has four people running for president, none of whom are Rush Limbaugh,” he said.
Gingrich said the real point is that the Obama administration is attacking religious liberty by requiring religious employers to pay for health insurance coverage that includes contraception.
"Are we just going to have the government from here on out define for us what rights we have and say to us, oh, it's OK to be religious for one hour on Sunday, but let's not take it seriously the rest of the week?" Gingrich said on This Week. "I think this is a very profound question about freedom."
Gingrich appeared from McLean for the interviews on a long-planned day off the road.
“There are few stops he has not pulled for his wife’s birthday,” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said.
Jim Galloway contributed.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.