Gingrich: I'd trail Obama around country until he accepts debate challenge

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich promised on Friday evening in Iowa that if he wins his party's nomination, he will follow President Obama around the country until Obama accepts a challenge to participate in Lincoln-Douglas style debates.

"I promise you, if you will help me on January 3, if I end up as the nominee, in my acceptance speech, if the president has not yet agreed, I will announce from that day forward for the rest of the campaign, the White House will be my scheduler," Gingrich said. "And wherever the president appears, I will appear four hours later."

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Gingrich said he would challenge Obama to seven Lincoln-Douglas style debates lasting three hours each with no moderator and only a timekeeper. "I will concede that he can use a teleprompter," Gingrich said.

According to Gingrich, his plan to follow Obama around the country is based on Abraham Lincoln's strategy of giving a rebuttal speech to Stephen Douglas in the same place that Douglas had given a speech one day earlier during the 1858 Illinois Senate campaign. 

"After about three weeks, Douglas figured out that the newspaper coverage was always Lincoln's answer and not Douglas's speech," Gingrich said. 

Gingrich predicted Obama would accept the debate challenge, in part because of wanting to preserve media coverage, but also out of ego.

"How can a Harvard Law Review editor, the greatest orator in the modern Democratic party, admit to being afraid to be on the same platform as a West Georgia college professor?" he asked.

Gingrich made the remarks at the Iowa Republican Party's fundraising dinner in honor of Ronald Reagan.

The other Republicans candidates who spoke at the event were Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Gov. Rick Perry (Texas) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.). 

In his speech, Rick Perry criticized the deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling because it included automatic cuts to the Defense Budget unless the congressional supercommittee on deficit reduction agrees to cut an additional $1.5 trillion from the deficit. 

"This shows you just how broken Washington, D.C. is," Perry said. "The price for politicians failing to do their job is that Americans will be forced to live in a nation that is less secure and our young men and women in uniform are going to have fewer resources."

Ron Paul, who was introduced via video teleconference by his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), called for an audit of the Federal Reserve and a return to the gold standard of currency. He noted that for the first time, America's debt has reached the value of its gross domestic product.

Michele Bachmann warned that if the U.S. does not reduce its debt, it could end up like Greece, which is currently on the verge of default.

Rick Santorum said he had pulled a "Grassley" by visiting all of Iowa's 99 counties, referring to Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. Santorum speech's emphasized religion and conservative values. 

None of the candidates explicitly mentioned opponents Herman Cain, who is battling allegations of sexual harassment, or Mitt Romney. 

After praising the other candidates who were at the dinner one-by-one, Gingrich said, "There are a couple I wish were here tonight, and I would have said nice things about them. But we'll skip over that."