Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Saturday that, if he wins the Republican nomination, he'll challenge President Barack Obama to seven forums akin to the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Gingrich announced this intention while speaking at a presidential forum in Iowa sponsored by the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition.
The former Georgia congressman described the 2012 election as the nation's most pivotal since 1860, when Abraham Lincoln - a Republican - defeated three opponents, including Stephen Douglas, to capture the presidency.
Two years earlier, in a race for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois, Lincoln squared off against Douglas, a Democrat, in seven debates. They were marked by philosophical arguments about slavery and the role of government.
Gingrich said that the 2012 debates he's proposing will be as "historic and decisive" as those debates in 1858.
As for ground rules, the GOP presidential candidate said he'd want the debates to be three hours long, with "a timekeeper and no moderator."
Gingrich joked that he would let Obama have a teleprompter so he could have some help defending his health care reform law.