TAMPA—In the kind of endorsement any Republican candidate would want, Newt Gingrich likened Mitt Romney's energy and economic plans to the kind of policies Ronald Reagan would have proposed. But that was about the only nice thing Gingrich had to say about his former GOP rival as he spoke at the Republican National Convention just hours before Romney was set to formally accept the party's presidential nomination.
Speaking after a video tribute to Reagan, Gingrich entered the stage to an instrumental rendition of James Brown's "Soul Man." He was joined by his wife, Callista, and he left it up to her to sing Romney's praises. At the same time, Gingrich used his moment in the RNC spotlight to attack President Barack Obama, accusing him of enacting policies that have "weakened America's confidence."
"Obama's proud of what he's done and of his politically motivated partisanship, but he should be ashamed for putting politics before people," Gingrich declared.
Gingrich's speech was notable in what he didn't say. Romney's name was mentioned just four times in the speech, compared to 16 mentions of Reagan's name. And only Callista Gingrich offered the full-fledged endorsement of the Romney ticket—calling the importance of this year's election similar to that of the 1980 election that Reagan won.
"The election of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will decisively move America to a better future," she said. "Remembering President Reagan reminds us that the choices we make matter, and this year is as important as the choice we made in 1980."
Here are Newt and Callista Gingrich's remarks at the RNC, as prepared for delivery:
Callista: Thank you for that warm welcome. What a wonderful tribute to President Reagan and the spirit of the American people.
Newt: It's fantastic to see so many friends here. Friends from decades of service to the party, service in public life and those who have helped us over the past few years. And we're delighted that tonight we come together to once again renew the American spirit and put real leadership back in the White House this November.
Callista: The election of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will decisively move America to a better future. Remembering President Reagan reminds us that the choices we make matter, and this year is as important as the choice we made in 1980.
Newt: Over three decades have passed since Ronald Reagan was first elected to the White House, yet the impact of his leadership is still evident today. While in office, President Reagan had three major goals: To restore the economy; to revive the American spirit; and to defeat totalitarianism, spreading democracy throughout the world.
Callista: By remaining true to his convictions, through his belief in the American people and with tremendous optimism, President Reagan achieved these goals.
Newt: It's striking how President Carter and President Obama both took our nation down a path that in four years weakened America's confidence in itself and our hope for a better future.
Callista: Both weakened the respect for America abroad; both increased government programs, filled with waste and inefficiency that failed to produce results; both made promises they couldn't keep; and, as a consequence of ineffective policies, both were unable to revive our economy and create jobs.
Newt: For example, both crippled American energy production when there were better ways to develop and use our abundant energy resources.
The Romney plan for North American energy independence is exactly the kind of bold, visionary leadership Reagan believed in, and it's what we need now.
Callista: The Reagan presidency also teaches us that there is a better way to put Americans back to work, create millions of jobs and help every American achieve success. The Reagan program of tax cuts, regulatory reform and spending controls worked.
Newt: Reagan's belief in small business owners and entrepreneurs is a remarkable contrast with Obama's class warfare rhetoric, massive deficits and a passion for taxing those who create jobs. The Romney plan for a stronger middle class has deep roots in Reagan's approach.
Callista: Reagan's commitment to reform welfare and to create a work requirement was a major achievement when he was governor of California. His pioneering work led to the historic welfare reform bill Congress and the president passed 30 years later. This bipartisan legislation reduced the size of government, made our country more competitive and put millions of Americans back to work.
Newt: Tragically, President Obama gutted this achievement. And, like Jimmy Carter, over four years he produced little effective legislation that brought the two parties together in the interest of the nation. Obama's waiving of the work requirements in welfare reform is just one example of his direct repudiation of President Reagan's values.
Obama's proud of what he's done and of his politically motivated partisanship, but he should be ashamed for putting politics before people.
Callista: Governor Romney will return America to work, and to the principles that are at the core of President Reagan's legacy.
This year the American people will once again have an important choice to make.
Newt: Now each of us must commit ourselves in the tradition of Ronald Reagan to come together. President Reagan said, "There is no substitute for victory." And this November, we cannot settle for anything less.
This is the most critical election of our lifetime. Each of us must do our part now to ensure that America remains, in the tradition of President Reagan, a land of freedom, hope and opportunity. Thank you and God bless.