He may have served as the Speaker of the House for nearly four years, made dozens of appearances on the flagship interview shows of the Washington circuit, and founded a hydra of a political organization so vast that it's nicknamed "Newt Inc."
But don't call Newt Gingrich a D.C. guy.
“I'm not a Washington figure, despite the years I've been here," the former House speaker told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday. “I’m essentially an American whose ties are across the country and whose interest is in how you change Washington and not how you make Washington happy.”
Gingrich said he has “many many supporters” who have backed him since the 1980s, but he insists most of that base is primarily “grassroots.”
The presidential contender pointed to widespread criticism of his (35th) appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press as a sign that the Beltway intelligentsia are not in his corner.
"It is impossible to watch television in the last week and not get the conclusion that I'm definitely not the candidate of Washington, D.C.,” he said, noting the positive response he received from voters in Iowa during a campaign swing there last weekend.
“Everywhere I go across Iowa, everywhere I see people randomly, they have figured out I am the guy who wants to change Washington, and they can tell it because the people they see on TV from Washington aren’t happy with me. … I will clearly be the most change-oriented, the most fundamental reform candidate in this race in either party.”
Newt Gingrich at the Monitor Breakfast - May 23, 2011
In his 36th Monitor breakfast appearance, the former Speaker dismissed critics who have called his campaign dead-on-arrival, commented drily about the press’s predilection for “gotcha questions,” and highlighted his policy victories while serving in Congress.
“I have a clear record of significant change in Washington,” he said in his opening remarks.
Gingrich also addressed questions about his personal finances, saying that he is “totally mystified” at the attention received by a Politico story last week revealing that Gingrich once carried a debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars to luxury jewelry store Tiffany’s.
“I owe no personal debts,” he said after noting that expenditures made by himself and his wife Callista are not made with public money and represent only after-tax income.
“If Obama followed our pattern of fiscal responsibility, the United States would currently be running a surplus and be buying back debt from the Chinese,” he said. “I’m happy to say I love my wife. I love many of our family and friends. We’ve tried to be very good to a range of people.”