On a day of reckoning for his presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich was sharply challenged by a conservative Nashville radio host over his 2008 appearance on a love seat with Nancy Pelosi in a TV ad advocating U.S. action on climate change.
It wasn't his alliance with Pelosi that set off the host, Ralph Bristol of Super Talk 99.7 WTN. It was the fact that the ad was made for the Alliance for Climate Protection, an organization headed by former Vice President Al Gore, and that it directed viewers to a website operated by Gore.
Nancy Pelosi," Bristol told Gingrich, who conducted a series of radio interviews Tuesday morning from Georgia before appearing by satellite before the Washington, D.C., conference of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group. "And I would like to know why you did what you referred to as the 'dumbest thing' you ever did."
Gingrich replied that he had testified against a House climate change bill on the same day that Gore had testified for it. And that, while the bill passed in the House, he helped lead the charge against it in the Senate, where it died. He added that he has "consistently" opposed "cap and trade," a system that would cap the allowable amount of pollution and let companies trade pollution credits.
That did not satisfy Bristol.
"But you said in the commercial, 'We agree that government must do something about climate change,' and you sent people to a website that is Al Gore's global warming website, that is the radical climate change agenda. And then a year later, you testified against the climate change agenda. I can't understand why you would do both of those things."
Gingrich seemed a bit sheepish. "We didn't do due diligence," he said, "and we didn't check out the website that it sent people to."
He also pleaded uncertainty to a question about whether he thinks that global climate change is a man-made problem that government money should help reverse.
"I think climate change is a topic we should be doing research on, but I don't think we know enough to justify any substantial expenditure of money. That could be absurd. I tell people the Dutch dealt with the problem of the ocean by building dikes, not by lowering the ocean."
More than 400 delegates are at stake Tuesday in the voting contests that take place in states including Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia. Gingrich is expected to win in Georgia, where he began his political career. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are in a close race in Ohio. Santorum is leading Romney in polls in Tennessee, but Gingrich said he has inched up in at least one poll there.
"My sense is we're gaining ground," he said. "As people look at the other two candidates, my ideas, my solutions make a lot more sense."
Many have speculated that Tuesday's vote will winnow the field by at least one candidate, but Gingrich said he thinks all four candidates will stay in no matter how the vote goes.
"This is the most unusual race I have ever seen in my lifetime," he said. "Romney has so much money, mostly from Wall Street, that you can't knock him out. And the Internet makes it possible for us to campaign so inexpensively that you can't knock out Rick Santorum or me. And Ron Paul just has his own organization and his own base and is doing his own thing."
Newt Gingrich on hot seat over love seat ad with Nancy Pelosi
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