WORLD / America

Former House Speaker: Hillary Clinton is beatable
Updated: 2006-05-16 09:26

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich agrees that Sen. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic front-runner should she make a bid for president in 2008. But winning, he says, is another matter.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appears during the taping of 'Meet the Press'' Sunday, May 14, 2006, at the NBC studios in Washington. [AP]

"This is a country which has elected a peanut farmer, an actor who made movies with monkeys. I mean, you know, with chimpanzees. I mean, many things happen in America," said Gingrich, referring to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

"But I think, you know, she has a lot of challenges, and there's a question whether or not there's a ceiling, that when you got down to the Hillary/anti-Hillary, whether or not she can break 50 percent in primaries," Gingrich said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Calling Clinton "formidable" as a presidential candidate, Gingrich said: "If we beat her we're going to beat her with better ideas. We're not going to beat her with some kind of negative campaign."

In recent weeks, the architect of the Republican takeover of the House in 1994 has traveled several times to Iowa and New Hampshire, urging congressional Republicans to rein in federal spending and focus on maintaining if not building their majority in the November midterm elections.

Gingrich downplayed suggestions that he might be plotting his own run for president.

"I doubt it at this point," he said. "I'm not ruling out running, but I'm also saying we have real things to do in '06. We have real things to do in '07. And it'll be nice to have a couple of years of talking about solutions, not just talking about ambitions."