GUY RAZ, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.
An NPR poll released this past week shows that Democrats are in trouble. They hold a 39-seat majority in the House, but there's a strong possibility they could lose control of it after this November's midterm election.
We begin the hour with a look at the midterms. In a moment, we'll hear from former California congressman Vic Fazio, who led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1994. That was, of course, the year of the Republican revolution, and the man behind it was Newt Gingrich.
I sat down with the former House speaker to ask whether he sees any parallels between 2010 and 1994.
Mr. NEWT GINGRICH (Author, "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine;" Former Republican Speaker of the House): Oh, I think in some ways, it's a lot like 1994. In other ways, it's very different. Clearly, the economy is much worse this year. I think that has a big impact.
I think the scale of crisis, or the sense of crisis - the oil in the gulf, the collapsing of the border, the scale of violence in Mexico, the problems in the Middle East - all these different pieces have people much more anxiety-ridden.
In '94, they were irritated with Bill and Hillary Clinton, and they were tired of the Democrats being in charge of the Congress for 40 years. But there wasn't the underlying sense of national problems that you have today.
RAZ: Do you think that the Republicans can recapture the House and the Senate?
Mr. GINGRICH: Oh, I think there's a very high likelihood they'll recapture the House because if you looked at the latest - actually, NPR poll in the 70 swing districts, and you realize that 60 were Democrat districts and 10 were Republican, I mean, you go into any game where one side has 60 seats at stake and the other side has 10 seats at stake; you automatically know the bias is in favor of very real change.
RAZ: One of the lessons, presumably, you learned in 1994 was that being in opposition is very different from having real legislative power. One of those things was, you actually had to work with Bill Clinton to get things done.
It seems as if today, Republicans tend to be punished by the party when they work in a bipartisan fashion.
Mr. GINGRICH: There's a huge difference between conservative bipartisanship and liberal bipartisanship. We were for welfare reform. Welfare reform was an idea advocated by Ronald Reagan, running for governor in 1966. By 1996, it had matured as an idea. People understood it thoroughly. It had 92 percent approval in the American people. And we split the Democratic caucus in half: 101 voted yes, and 101 voted no.
Now, that was bipartisan. I mean, if you get half the Democrats, it's clearly bipartisan. But it was bipartisan on ideological terms that were broadly supported by the American people.
The things that Obama wants us to be bipartisan on are A, fundamentally wrong and B, have very little popular support.
RAZ: So you think it works to the Republicans' advantage to present a united front in opposing...
Mr. GINGRICH: Absolutely. Look, when you want to raise taxes, kill jobs, increase power in Washington, increase the national debt, burden your children and grandchildren with a lifetime of paying taxes on your debt, I think saying no is actually pretty reasonable.
I think we need to be the party of yes in that we then say: Here's what we would do.
RAZ: Let's turn to where the Republican Party is now. Is the sort of the Sarah Palin tea party populism the direction in which the party is headed or should be headed?
Mr. GINGRICH: Well, I have a chapter in my book, "To Save America," on tea parties, and I think that Governor Palin's an important figure. But I think that the party as a whole is much broader than that and will remain much broader than that.
Everywhere I go and with American Solutions, I meet with tea party leaders virtually everywhere. And I believe that their commitment to defeating Obama virtually guarantees that unless the Republicans are just amazingly dumb, that they will clearly have the Tea Party movement on their side because there'll be a broad, general consensus that beating Obama requires people to work together.
RAZ: Newt Gingrich, at a conservative conference recently, you called President Obama the most radical president in history. I'm wondering if that's a little hyperbolic.
Mr. GINGRICH: Well, tell me who is more radical.
RAZ: I mean, is he more radical than Thomas Jefferson, who was...
Mr. GINGRICH: Oh, he's much more radical.
RAZ: ...who supported insurrection; Franklin Roosevelt, who laid down the social welfare effort?
Mr. GINGRICH: Yeah, he's much more radical than either of those.
RAZ: How so?
Mr. GINGRICH: Again, it depends on your definition. I use the word radical as it relates to Obama in a very different way.
RAZ: But it's not a compliment.
Mr. GINGRICH: No. I think it is, in fact, a sign of what a fundamental threat his ideology is to the country.
RAZ: How so?
Mr. GINGRICH: I believe he stands for a politician-defined, bureaucratically implemented, Washington-centered system. He believes in a government-centered society in which government takes care of you, in which government runs virtually everything. I mean, just read what he says. None of this is made up. These are things he says.
RAZ: I mean, Republicans were in power from 1994 to 2006. You have criticized their governance in your new book. So if they are let's say the Republicans do take over the House in the fall. Who are the leaders of the party?
Mr. GINGRICH: Well, look, it's not that we don't have smart people. I mean, Paul Ryan, who's the budget - ranking Republican, is probably as smart as anybody in Washington on entitlement reform.
RAZ: Except his plan that he has pursued and pushed is not backed by the party leadership. We had him on our show, and we asked him many of these questions, and the bottom line is his proposal is not supported by the party.
Mr. GINGRICH: Right. And he's going to have to win the argument and convince the party to support it. When Ronald Reagan first proposed welfare reform, it wasn't supported by the party. When Jack Kemp first proposed a three-year tax cut, it wasn't supported by the party.
I would advise the congressional Republicans to consciously set up a liaison with the Republican governors and learn from them practical, real things that they can do that would put them on offense for all of 2011, fixing and improving government.
RAZ: Would it be a failure, in your view, if the Republicans did not recapture the House?
Mr. GINGRICH: Well, I mean, it'd be a failure in the sense that I'm a Green Bay fan, and every year, I want Green Bay to win the Super Bowl. But it wouldn't be a failure in the sense that they're going to gain seats. They're going to gain a lot of seats. I think it's almost inconceivable, at nearly 10 percent unemployment, that the Democrats are going to be able to succeed.
RAZ: Well, history - the history of midterms is on their side, anyway.
Mr. GINGRICH: Right. And you take the history of the midterms, you take the reality of the economy. Charlie Cook, who's a great student of this business, wrote an article recently that said: No party has had an election year with unemployment above 9 percent since the Great Depression.
And the idea that they're going to run for re-election and say, you know, re-elect us because of the great job we're doing?
RAZ: Last question, Newt Gingrich: 2012, are you going to run for president?
Mr. GINGRICH: We're going to spend all of this year focused on electing Republicans at every level. And Callista and I will sit down in February and March of next year and make a decision. It's certainly an option. We're certainly considering it, but we're not going to make any decision about it before February or March of next year.
RAZ: That's Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, and author of the new book "To Save America."
Newt Gingrich, thank you so much.
Mr. GINGRICH: Great to be with you.