CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois is a player in the Republican presidential primary fight, since no single candidate has a lock on the nomination yet.
Wednesday afternoon, Newt Gingrich attended a rally in northwest suburban Rosemont. He’s third in the delegate count behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, and running second among those who say they are looking for “a true conservative.”
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole sat down with Gingrich for a one-on-one interview.
In spite of his lackluster finishes in the primaries so far, Gingrich said he is staying in the race all the way to the convention, to get his message out there.
Gingrich spoke to a crowd barely 100 strong, and he pushed his message of increasing domestic oil drilling to reduce gas prices and achieve energy independence. He also took the blame for his stagnant campaign.
“I have such a passion for being positive, that we … have not pushed as hard to define Santorum,” Gingrich said.
Santorum won the primaries in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday, preventing Romney from running away with the nomination. With Gingrich mired in third place, some pundits have suggested he drop out of the race.
“The same people said last June I didn’t have a chance, and same people who very strongly don’t want me to win,” Gingrich said. “We keep gathering delegates. I got more delegates last night than Mitt Romney. So, why should I be the one they’re talking about dropping out?”
Gingrich said he thinks Romney would lose in a head-to-head race against President Barack Obama, pointing to Romney’s passage of health care legislation while he was governor of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts health care bill has been viewed as the model for the health care reform package Obama pushed through Congress.
“I think it’s very hard for the guy who invented Romneycare, which is the forerunner and model for Obamacare, to debate Obama,” Gingrich said.
Trying to lure conservative voters looking for a choice between him and Santorum, Gingrich said “when I was Speaker of the House, we balanced the budget for four straight years. We paid off 400 billion dollars in debt. When he (Santorum) was in the leadership, they ran up a trillion, 700 billion dollars in deficits.”
Asked how he reaches out to moderate voters who might vote for Obama, Gingrich said, “you do it based on issues.”
“Take, for example, an American energy plan. It’s about a four-to-one issue. Virtually the same number of Democrats, independents and Republicans all agree that we ought to have energy independence,” he said. “So I think you can draw fights with Obama that are miles wide, in terms of where he’s at and where the country’s at.”
Gingrich said his most ignored topic is his support of brain research for advances fighting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Gingrich will be in Illinois on Wednesday and Thursday for various rallies and fundraiser.
He said campaigning in Obama territory doesn’t slow him down one bit.