MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) – Republican former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, mulling a run for the White House, on Wednesday derided President Barack Obama over energy policy and high gasoline prices.
Rising gas prices threaten to derail the fragile U.S. economic recovery and are becoming a potent campaign issue in the Republican race to challenge Obama in 2012.
Gingrich, who was holding meetings with members of the Tea Party movement and other conservative activists, tried to get ahead of the curve, blaming high prices for heating oil and gasoline on Obama, and outlining proposals of his own.
“Obama is waging war on American energy,” he said.
Top of Gingrich’s list is shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency, which he called “a job-killing regulatory engine of higher energy prices.”
He also proposed lifting a ban on oil shale development in the West; imposing new oil and gas royalties; giving coastal states federal royalty revenue sharing and enacting a law to reduce “frivolous” lawsuits sometimes used to stop energy projects.
Gingrich is considering making a decision early next month on whether to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. But, speaking to reporters at an Italian restaurant in Manchester, he sounded every inch the candidate.
“The United States is at a great turning point in its history,” he said, urging a return to “American exceptionalism” and strong economic growth.
He said the presence of businessman and reality TV celebrity Donald Trump as a potential Republican candidate was not just a distraction, calling him “a unique American character.”
“If my choice was Barack Obama or Donald Trump, I would have zero hesitation in saying Donald Trump is far less dangerous to the United States,” he said.
Gingrich also said deficit reduction can “absolutely” be achieved without tax increases, adding: “I’m for a very frugal Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security.”
Several trips to the early voting state of New Hampshire have kept Gingrich relatively high on the list of potential Republican candidates, although far behind Mitt Romney, former governor neighboring Massachusetts.
Public Policy Polling on April 5 said Gingrich was running third, with 13 percent support, behind Romney at 32 percent and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with 15 percent.
The survey was taken March 31 to April 3 and had a margin for error of plus or minus 5 percent. (Reporting by Ros Krasny; editing by Chris Wilson)
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