Gingrich discusses presidential decision, 1995 shutdown before tonight’s speaking gigby George Bennett | February 24th, 2011
Nobody wants a government shutdown, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says as a March 4 deadline looms for Congress and President Obama to agree on spending levels to keep the government running.
But Gingrich — a potential 2012 presidential candidate who will keynote tonight’s Palm Beach County GOP Lincoln Day dinner — says the 1995-96 shutdown with which he’s associated wasn’t the disaster it’s made out to be.
“It worked in public policy terms because we got four straight balanced budgets,” Gingrich said Wednesday in a brief interview with The Palm Beach Post.
Gingrich also said he’s within a few weeks of announcing whether he’ll run for president in 2012.
Gingrich was House speaker in late 1995 when the Republican-led Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton couldn’t agree on a spending plan to keep the government running. Much of the federal government shut down during parts of November and December 1995 and January 1996.
Public opinion sided with Democratic President Bill Clinton and against Gingrich afterward.
Clinton won reelection in 1996. But Gingrich called the political damage to the GOP “negligible,” noting that while Republicans lost nine House seats in the 1996 elections they retained control of the chamber.
Gingrich also said the shutdown paved the way for the balanced budgets of fiscal years 1998 to 2001.
Whether he runs or not, Gingrich said, Republicans “have a number of very smart people who will be good candidates….I think Republicans will be able to feel very good about who represents them on the ballot.”
Gingrich added: “If I do run, it will be a very citizen-centered campaign.”
About 600 people paid $195 and up for tickets to tonight’s dinner at the Kravis Center, the main annual money-raising event for the county GOP.
At least three potential 2012 U.S. Senate candidates — former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, state Senate President Mike Haridopolos and former House Majority Leader Adam Hasner — are expected to attend.