WASHINGTON — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday urged some 2,000 Republican party loyalists to stand up for GOP principles but to be inclusive as the party tries to retake the majority. He also declared that President Barack Obama's policies had "already failed."
"I am happy that Dick Cheney is a Republican," Gingrich said at the annual Senate-House fundraising dinner. "I am also happy that Colin Powell is a Republican."
Cheney, the former vice president under President George W. Bush, and Powell, who was Bush's secretary of state, have feuded recently over the approach of the party, with Powell calling for more moderation and Cheney arguing against that.
"A majority Republican party will have lots of debates within the party," Gingrich, the former Georgia congressman, said. "That is the nature of majority parties."
On President Obama, Gingrich was less magnanimous.
He said President Barack Obama's plan to save the economy through stimulus spending and government intervention in companies like General Motors has "already failed."
Gingrich also referenced a popular right-wing attack on Obama, saying that "bowing to the Saudi king is not an energy policy."
Standing in as the party's de facto leader, Gingrich was filling a speaking role that Bush held in recent years and that was initially offered to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president, this year. He headlined a series of speakers who gave the crowd a blistering review of President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.
Despite the rallying cry, the GOP faithful still weren't opening their wallets as they have in recent past. The event took in a relatively small fundraising haul of $14.5 million, the lowest total in at least five years. Last year, it raised $21.5 million, compared with $15.4 million in 2007 and $27 million in 2006.
Committee officials attributed the drop partly to the struggling economy and pointed out that when Bush headlined, he gave the dinner a bigger draw for donations..
The event, held in a hall resembling a small arena at the downtown Washington convention center, is one of the party's largest fundraisers of the year, drawing major donors and lawmakers whose support would be key to a presidential campaign. Organizers said some 150 members of Congress attended Monday's dinner.
Gingrich's remarks about inclusion came after he was criticized for calling Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a racist over her comments that a "wise Latina" would reach a better conclusion than a white man without similar experiences. Gingrich backed away from that criticism last week, saying his comments may have been too harsh.
Associated Press writer Beth Fouhy in New York contributed to this report.