Politics
Republican presidential candidate former House speaker Newt Gingrich gestures during a Republican presidential debate Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) Republican presidential candidate former House speaker Newt Gingrich gestures during a Republican presidential debate Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)  

Newt Gingrich wants one-on-one debates with primary opponents

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

TAMPA, Fla. — Newt Gingrich says there’s a better way for the Republicans running for president to debate each other than the type of televised showdowns going on now.

“I would still love to see some agreement where we would have 90-minute dialogues one-on-one,” the former House Speaker and GOP candidate for president said in an interview spanning more than 20 minutes with The Daily Caller on Tuesday.

He suggested these kind of debates, where only two people debate under a format of few rules, might work best after the field has dwindled down to perhaps “the final four.”

Gingrich, who has criticized debate moderators on more than one occasion recently, said he’s for figuring out “some model by which some people could actually have rational conversations.”

He has long been a fan of debates in the style of those famously held in 1858 between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, where the candidates were given 90 minutes each to offer their side. He called on the major party nominees for president in 2008 to hold such forums.

“What’s the purpose of free elections?” Gingrich said. “Is the purpose of free elections to allow the most clever and vicious person to aggregate power or is the purpose of free elections to enable the American people to have a serious conversation about their country’s future and try to find both a policy and a personality that they think will carry to them that better future? They’re totally different models.”

Newt, the ideas man

During the sit down interview at the Lowry Park Zoo — where the former speaker screened his documentary “A City Upon a Hill” for young Republicans — Gingrich discussed, among other topics, abortion, campaign finance, foreign aid and the media.

With all the talk about cutting the budget, should the Pentagon see cuts too? Gingrich called for “reforming defense,” but said “we are substantially under-investing in defense right now,” considering the challenges the country is facing.

“Nobody in this country has taken seriously what a real nuclear event would be like,” Gingrich said. “You’ve got the North Koreans building weapons, you got the Iranians building weapons, you’ve got the Pakistanis already have at least 100 nuclear weapons. Do you think there’s any serious effort in this country to come to grips with that?”

Asked about abolishing or changing federal departments and agencies, Gingrich said he’d like to see the Department of Education “dramatically reduced to essentially being a research office.”

And on the topic of whether the United States should provide money to foreign countries after a natural disaster, he said: “Look, I think we have a charitable instinct. We should both raise the money privately and provide immediate response, which I think means you need to have a big enough military.”

But he added: “I would replace most foreign aid with a tax credit for businesses to invest. I think U.S. bureaucrats giving foreign bureaucrats money is a guaranteed failure. And we’ve had about 50 years experience at failing with foreign aid.”