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Gingrich targets Republican establishment


WASHINGTON – Newt Gingrich relied on his standard campaign speech Friday afternoon to win over conservatives at CPAC 2012, hitting hard on both the Republican establishment and President Barack Obama.

“This is the year to re-set this country in a decisive, bold way. We need to teach the Republican establishment a lesson,” Gingrich told the crowd inside a Marriott Wardman Park Hotel ballroom.

The former House Speaker took the stage after his wife, Callista, made a rare public speaking appearance and introduced her husband.

“We believe our current path puts the future of our great nation in jeopardy,” Callista said about President Obama’s leadership in her roughly 3-minute remarks. “And we believe bold solutions and fearless leadership are necessary to rebuild the America we love.”

Gingrich, who uncharacteristically looked down at a handwritten outline while at the podium, picked up on this theme while he spoke, criticizing President Obama for his “war on religion.”

“We cannot trust him,” Gingrich said about the President, noting Obama will “wage war on the Catholic Church” if re-elected. “We know who he really is, and we should make sure the country knows who he really is.”

The Speaker was the final presidential candidate to speak at the annual conservative convention. Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney spoke earlier Friday.

But not everything was policy. There were even a couple lighthearted moments during both the Speaker and Callista’s speeches.

"Newt is an enthusiastic and committed golfer. It’s true. He gets in and out of more sand traps than anyone I have ever seen,” Callista joked with the crowd. “Newt golfs the way he does everything, with enthusiasm and determination. He’s willing to learn and he never gives up.”

But when the Speaker started his speech, he almost contradicted his wife.

“What she didn't tell you, by the way, is I'm a very bad golfer,” Gingrich said to laughter in the crowd. “She just wouldn't say it.”

The campaign spokesman told NBC News that Callista will be seen more frequently on the trail and will even start doing campaign events on her own soon.