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Gingrich praises Haley

Former Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich railed against the Obama administration's spending during a Friday luncheon in Columbia while praising Republican gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley and state Sen. Mick Mulvaney in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. John Spratt of York.

The 20-year congressional veteran who now runs a consulting firm and is a Fox News Channel political contributor said he's looking forward to spending more time in South Carolina but stopped short of revealing whether he will run for president in 2012.

"It's a long time between now and then," Gingrich told McClatchy Newspapers, adding that he will likely make a decision in February or March.

About 100 Republicans were on hand for the event, sponsored by the S.C. Republican Party, during which Gingrich encouraged the GOP to follow Haley's positive campaigning lead heading into the 2010 elections.

"We have to do a lot of what Nikki did, which is run a positive, solutions-oriented, inclusive effort that draws people together with an optimistic sense that the future can be better," he said. "We have to convince people that there's a better future without Obama."

South Carolina, Gingrich said, is on the cusp of a new conservative wave that will wash over the nation.

Some have speculated Gingrich would like to lead that movement. In 1994, Gingrich helped lead a successful political charge that saw Republicans take over Congress. The timing and circumstances then are similar to this year's congressional elections. The Gingrich-led 1994 Republican takeover was two years after Democrat Bill Clinton won the presidency along with a Democratic Congress.

"I am very excited about what's happening in South Carolina. I believe you currently have a new wave of new ideas, new approaches, a commitment to reform ... more than any other state," he said.

Mick Zais, the Republican nominee for state Superintendent of Education, was one of several winners of last month's primaries who praised Gingrich.

Zais even took notes during the speech.

"He is one of the true intellectuals in American society today," Zais said. "He has an inclusive vision that I find amazing."