From NBC's Mark Murray
WASHINGTON -- A conservative movement that currently finds itself out of power turned its attention here to the man who last led them out of the political wilderness 15 years ago: Newt Gingrich.
The former Republican speaker entered the ballroom here at the Conservative Political Action Conference to Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," with the packed crowd standing and clapping to the song's beat. And in the first few moment of his remarks, Gingrich immediately criticized the month-old Obama administration.
He chastised Attorney General Eric Holder's recent speech that the U.S. was a nation of cowards when it comes to the issue of race.
"I welcome an opportunity to have a dialogue with you about cowardice anywhere, anytime," he said in comments directed at Holder. Then, turning to President Obama's Tuesday address to Congress and his budget, Gingrich called them "the boldest effort to create a European socialist government we have seen."
He also lambasted Obama for opposing earmarks -- and then tolerating them in the appropriations bill that Congress has drafted.
"I was looking for change we can believe in," he said.
Despite spending the first part of his speech criticizing the Obama administration, Gingrich said opposition wasn't enough to returning to power in future elections; conservatives, he said, also need to come up with positive solutions. Some of his ideas: cutting the capital gains tax to zero and slashing the corporate tax rate.
Even though the Bush administration championed tax cuts at every opportunity, Gingrich linked the former Republican president with Obama to argue how spending had gotten out of control -- among both Democrats and Republicans. "We have a Bush-Obama spending plan that was bipartisan," he said.
Near the end of his speech, Gingrich cast the political debate as between "European socialism" and "American free enterprise"; he railed against the union-backed Employee Free Choice Act, calling it the "greatest threat to freedom in the workplace"; and he encouraged the conservatives in the audience to donate money to the Republican congressional candidate running to replace Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in New York.
And finally, after referencing Ronald Reagan (again) and the upcoming 2010 and 2012 elections, he concluded his remarks -- this time as Queen's "We will rock you" almost drowned out the applause.