Gingrich: 'I'm not a Washington figure'

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he doesn't view himself as a "Washington figure," positioning himself as an anti-D.C. candidate in his campaign for president.

Gingrich railed against the Washington establishment in a breakfast Monday hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, claiming the mantle of the "change" candidate in the field of GOP presidential aspirants.

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"I'm not a Washington figure, despite the years I've been here," Gingrich said. "I'm essentially an American whose ties are across the country and is interested in how you change Washington, not how you make Washington happy."

Gingrich was first elected to Congress in 1978, where he remained until 1999, when he resigned both the Speakership and his seat in Congress. In the time since, he's set up a network of organizations (colloquially known as "Newt Inc.") based in Washington. He's made his home in the D.C. suburbs.

But as the former Speaker has pivoted to waging a campaign for the Republican nomination, he's turned against Washington, and has sought to frame himself as an outsider. He's based his campaign headquarters in Georgia, one of whose districts he represented in Congress.

"Everywhere I go across Iowa ... they figure out I'm the guy who wants to change Washington, and they can tell it because the people they see on TV from Washington are unhappy with me," he said. "And if you look at my platform, I'll clearly be the most change-oriented, the most fundamental reform candidate in this race."

Still, Gingrich has been dogged by stumbles in the early stages of his campaign, largely related to his criticism of House Republicans' 2012 budget (which Gingrich has walked back since then), and confusion over his support of a mandate to buy health insurance (Gingrich says now he opposes all mandates).

"I wanted to reassure you that the reports of my campaign's death are highly exaggerated," Gingrich told reporters at the top of the breakfast meeting.

He turned the tough press he's received in the past week into an example of his Washington outsider credentials, as well.

"I can't thank the Washington press corps enough for the last week," he said. "It is impossible to watch television in the last week and not get the conclusion that I'm definitely not the candidate of Washington, D.C."

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