Margaret Thatcher for US president?

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich mused Friday that the former British prime minister, a hero to US conservatives, might have been a dream candidate for the White House -- in a radically different world.

"If Margaret Thatcher were here today and 30 years younger, I would ask her to consider me as her running mate," the former House speaker told a crowd packed at a coffee shop to question him on his policies.

Gingrich, who seeks the Republican nomination to take on President Barack Obama in the November 2012 elections, had been asked by one of the audience members whether he would consider asking Thatcher to be his running mate if she were American and three decades younger.

He was slightly less sanguine about former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, saying "the only caution I'd have is that if you've never run for office, it's a very different business.

"But she is very smart," he added. "She's very, very smart and is certainly one of the people you'd look at in terms of sheer talent and sheer knowledge."

Thatcher has taken an oddly high profile in the Republican nominating fight: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has co-opted her famed campaign advertising slogan, "Labor Isn't Working," and applied it to Obama.