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Gingrich's Unconventional White House Bid: A Retrospective

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Gingrich's Unconventional White House Bid: A Retrospective

Newt Gingrich

Gingrich's Unconventional White House Bid: A Retrospective

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Some other political news today, Newt Gingrich plans to end his presidential campaign next week and endorse Mitt Romney. Gingrich experienced a long slide after winning Georgia's Republican primary in March, but the former House speaker fought to stay in the race using a Southern strategy. NPR's Kathy Lohr has followed Gingrich, and she has this look at his campaign.

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: Gingrich announced his run last May on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

NEWT GINGRICH: Because I believe we can return America to hope and opportunity, to full employment, to real security.

LOHR: It wasn't long before Gingrich ruffled feathers, even those of his fellow Republicans. On NBC's "Meet the Press," he criticized Representative Paul Ryan's budget plan which included a proposal to overhaul Medicare.

GINGRICH: I don't think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering.

LOHR: The campaign had a very shaky start. Most of his staff resigned in June citing Gingrich's lack of commitment and a Greek isle cruise he took with his third wife Callista. But the former speaker was able to hang on through the summer and over a long series of debates, where he took on the roles of party statesman, partisan brawler and media critic.

GINGRICH: I, for one, and I hope all of my friends up here, are going to repudiate every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other to protect Barack Obama who deserves to be defeated. And all of us are committed as a team. Whoever the nominee is, we are all for defeating Barack Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LOHR: By December, with other candidates struggling or gone, Gingrich surged in the polls. On ABC News, the former speaker predicted he would win the GOP nomination.

GINGRICH: I'm going to be the nominee. And it's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee.

LOHR: Gingrich ran against big government and went on the attack. One of his favorite lines was calling Barack Obama a food stamp president.

GINGRICH: Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. I would like to be the most successful paycheck president in history.

LOHR: Many people thought Gingrich was using code language to talk about the first African-American president. Others said it was the recession that led to a record number of people using food stamps.

Another controversial Gingrich idea, reforming labor laws so children in poor communities could work. Gingrich said kids could get experience as janitors in their schools.

GINGRICH: Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have - they have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of, I do this and you give me cash, unless it's illegal.

LOHR: After big losses in Iowa and New Hampshire in January and questions about Gingrich's character, including extramarital affairs, he won big in South Carolina. That victory came after an attack on Romney's business career as head of Bain Capital. Gingrich was assisted by Winning Our Future, a superPAC supporting him that produced this video.

(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)

LOHR: Many suggest it was the superPAC and millions contributed by casino owner Sheldon Adelson which kept Gingrich in the race. But Romney and the superPAC supporting him spent millions attacking Gingrich in Florida, and it was Romney that won that state. After a string of losses, Gingrich savored a victory in his home State of Georgia on Super Tuesday.

GINGRICH: I hope the analysts in Washington and New York who spent June and July explaining our campaign was dead...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GINGRICH: ...will watch this tonight and learn a little bit from this crowd and from this place.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LOHR: The former speaker embarked on a Southern strategy citing a pledge to bring gas prices back to 2.50 a gallon. But Gingrich came in second to Rick Santorum in Mississippi and Alabama. Santorum suspended his campaign two weeks ago, while Gingrich insisted on staying in the race. Just yesterday, at the Billy Graham library in Charlotte, Gingrich said it was too early to call it quits.

GINGRICH: Governor Romney is not the nominee at this point. He does not have a majority of the delegates, and I think it's a little bit presumptuous. There's a big difference between being the front-runner and being inevitable.

LOHR: But after Gingrich lost all five primary battles yesterday, he was rethinking his campaign.

MERLE BLACK: A lot of Republican activists have thought that he should have gotten out a long time ago.

LOHR: That's Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University. He says Gingrich's attacks on Romney and his insistence to remain in the race may have hurt his prospects for a future role in the party.

BLACK: I think his stock is a little bit lower than when he started. You know, he's got to put his financial life back together. He's got to put his business life back together. He's got to do all that. And the question is how much credibility will he have in the future.

LOHR: After months of attacks on his rival, Mitt Romney, Gingrich is now calling on the Republican Party to unite behind the former Massachusetts governor. Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

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