President Barack Obama has played a mean game in the debt limit debate, but Republicans have advantages they didn’t have in the last showdown of this sort in ’95 — and it’s time to press those advantages by acting, not talking, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said today.

Speaking on a conference call with bloggers, Gingrich said now is the time to stand up to Obama.

“The potential here to have the nerve and the toughness and the energy to get through the next few weeks in a positive way is very great,” he said. “The potential to cave and give Obama an enormous amount of resources is equally great and I don’t think anybody knows yet which way this is going to work. … My view is that what you’ve seen is Obama really put the ‘bully’ back in ‘the bully pulpit.’ … This is the moment to stand up to Obama. This is the moment to insist on real change. The Republican House ought to quit talking to Obama and focus on passing legislation.”

The scheduled House vote on a balanced budget amendment and the Republican Study Committee’s ongoing push for its “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan is a good start, he said. Gingrich would add to that a Social Security Payment Guarantee Act, which would do exactly what its name suggests and guarantee that Social Security payments would go out Aug. 3 and beyond.

“Let Obama be the one to veto that bill,” he said.

Gingrich also favors a bill to increase the debt ceiling by the amount needed for 30 to 45 days — a bill he would pay for with spending cuts and by opening up offshore drilling to bring in additional oil and gas revenues.

“Legislative bodies do better when they act because they don’t have a single voice and they can never match a president in voice,” he explained. “But they can match a president in action and I think the time has come for the House to act more and talk less.”

What’s more, the former Speaker said, the House has two important advantages that the Republicans didn’t have in 1995 — the economy and Obama’s evident radicalism.

When Gingrich became Speaker in 1994, unemployment was at 5.6 percent. As the federal government controlled regulation, cut taxes and reformed welfare, the economy kept getting better and better. In one month in the spring of 1996, the American people created something like 24 times as many jobs as the nation created last month. By the time Bill Clinton ran for reelection in 1996, the economy was clearly on the right track. That’s not the case now.

“You have a president right now who is clearly failing at the most important job that the American president has and that is to try to arouse entrepreneurs and job creators and small-business owners to employ people,” Gingrich said. “As I’ve said over and over, this is the best food-stamp president in American history when the American people want a paycheck president. If Republicans can’t take that and win with that argument, I don’t think there’s much hope for the party to ever win an argument.”

That food-stamp president is also “the most radical president in American history,” according to Gingrich.

“All of his instincts are for radicalism,” Gingrich said. “All of his instincts are for big government. All of his instincts are for high taxes. We should be able to take that and turn that into an enormous advantage for us. … This is an extraordinarily important period and we are right on the edge of deciding whether we have the nerve to take on the most radical president in American history or whether we’re going to back off from that.”