Gingrich: I won't debate Obama if the moderators are reporters

Yeah, he will, but he’s obliged to say stuff like this on the trail now. Media-bashing has become his calling card. A Newt rally without it would be like a Stones concert without “Satisfaction.” Do the lunar base/flat tax medley if you want, but at some point you’ve got to make the people happy and play your anthem.

“The reporters who run the debates have no interest in asking any question which will affect Obama,” Gingrich told a crowd gathered to see him at the Pensacola airport. “That’s why, as your nominee, I will not accept debates in the fall in which the reporters are the moderators because you don’t need to have a second Obama person on the debate.”

It is not the first time Gingrich has threatened such action during his week in Florida. At a tea party event in Coral Springs last Wednesday, he told the crowd that he would “tolerate” the media-hosted primary debates, but in the general election he would want to set the terms of the debate with the president himself.

“We should be able to talk to the American people without reporters playing gotcha, being clever or having 60-second rules like ‘What would you do about Nigeria in 60 seconds?’ or ‘What’s your answer to Social Security in 30 seconds?'” Gingrich told the enthusiastic crowd.

Here’s the obligatory link to the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which would give The One plenty of political cover if Gingrich really did balk at the usual format. I’m curious, though: Does he mean he’d accept a moderator so long as it’s not someone from the media or is he still dead set on the seven three-hour Lincoln/Douglas debates that the White House will never, ever agree to? He told Jake Tapper yesterday on “This Week” that he did poorly against Romney in the Florida debates because “You cannot debate somebody who is dishonest. You just can’t. The people say I’m a good debater. I can’t debate somebody who won’t tell the truth.” Good thing Obama’s not dishonest.

Here’s Romney supporter John McCain yesterday on “Meet the Press” demanding an end to the debates, no doubt with an eye to making sure Newt can’t pull another rabbit out of the hat before Super Tuesday the way he did in South Carolina. There are four more debates scheduled at the moment, but if Gingrich does manage to turn this primary into a long slog, no doubt more will be added. Is there any number at which even Newt fans would concede we’ve heard all we need to hear, or is the chance of another magical Juan Williams/John King moment enough to justify 20 more hours, say? Exit question: Is the media actually rooting for Newt? Click the image to watch.