Unlike the Republican National Committee, former House speaker Newt Gingrich doesn’t want to curb the number of presidential debates.
At a National Review breakfast briefing on Thursday, Gingrich called the RNC’s push for regional primaries and a limited number of primary debates a “total waste of time.” It’s one of the few parts of the RNC’s post-election report where he disagrees with the party’s recommendations.
“You’re not going to get regional primaries,” Gingrich said flatly. “Every state maneuvers out of its own self interest.” He then playfully called the national GOP’s attempts to determine when the states voted “a total denial of the Tenth Amendment.”
Gingrich, who developed significant momentum in the 2012 primary with his debate performances, says debates sharpen a potential nominee. “The goal is to win the general election,” he said. “If you’re saying to me ‘Gee, we’re going to have a candidate so stupid we have to protect him from hurting himself, therefore let’s have the fewest possible debates.’ This is the World Series of power,” he explained.
In such a scenario, “We [will find out] in the first debate how really dumb he is,” he said, chuckling. Mitt Romney, he argued, was “strengthened” by the number of primary debates in which he participated.
As far as moderators go, Gingrich, who famously sparred with CNN’s John King over the appropriateness of a question during one primary debate, said he’d like to see moderators removed the debate process all together. “I prefer the Lincoln-Douglas approach, where the two candidates ask each other questions,” he said. “This idea, that we’re delegating power to randomly chosen reporters to decide what to ask the potential president of the United States, is wonderful if you’re a reporter, but it’s a fairly absurd idea if you think about it.”
He spoke fondly of the Lincoln-Douglas debates he was able to have in the primary with Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Jon Huntsman. “It was very fun in part,” Gingrich said of debating the former Utah governor, “because at one point Huntsman goes off speaking Chinese.”
The former speaker also acknowledged that he may run again in 2016, but indicated it wasn’t likely. “I don’t rule it out, but we’re not spending any energy on it,” he said of a possible bid. “We still have to pay off our debt, which we’re gradually doing. My instinct is that there’ll be a new generation of ideas and a new generation of candidates.”