(CNN) - For better or worse, the Newt of old is back.
One week after losing much of his campaign staff over questions about his discipline and work ethic, Gingrich returned to his comfort zone Thursday at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.
He marked his return with a freewheeling speech that touched on a wide array of subjects, including judicial restraint, estate tax and the Wright brothers.
In a 40-minute address interrupted by multiple rounds of applause, the former House speaker veered from issue to issue, riffing on abortion, education, energy, housing, James Madison, Ronald Reagan and the 'socialist' policies of the Obama administration.
If the warm reception he received from the gathering of conservative activists was any indicator, Gingrich’s campaign is far from over.
He took a brief moment to dismiss the turmoil inside his campaign, promising that his 2012 campaign will not be driven by political consultants, sound bites or attack ads.
Instead, he promised to “shock the news media” by running a “philosophical” campaign.
Gingrich boasted that his presidential bid will be “the most idea-oriented, the most philosophically-clear, the most educational, the most positive campaign in modern American history.”
He also tweaked the leader of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday for saying that her party is responsible for the state of the economy.
“We own the economy,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party’s chairwoman, said Wednesday. “We own the beginning of the turnaround and we want to make sure that we continue that pace of recovery, not go back to the policies of the past under the Bush administration that put us in the ditch in the first place.”
Gingrich pinned the 9.1% unemployment rate on President Barack Obama and mockingly thanked Wasserman Schultz for her honesty about the administration’s economic record.
“I commend the Democratic chairman who said yesterday that they own the economy,” Gingrich said. “It was more honesty than we have gotten out of the Obama White House for three years, and I think she deserves some more credit before she is fired by Obama.”