(CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the tables have turned in the Republican race for the White House, arguing on Wednesday that he's replacing Mitt Romney as the GOP's most steady presidential front-runner.
"I would have thought originally it was going to be a 'Mitt and Not-Mitt'," Gingrich said, talking about his early predictions for the top two Republican contenders. "It may turn out to be 'Newt and Not-Newt,' and that's a very different formula."
Gingrich has seen his poll numbers spike in the last month, taking him from the single digits into the top tier and in a close match with the former Massachusetts governor for the top spot.
"We're having to redesign our campaign strategy because we are at least 60 days ahead of where I thought we would be," Gingrich said in a Fox News interview.
A growing tension can be seen between the two candidates through comments made in interviews in recent days, in which both Romney and Gingrich have taken new lines of attack.
On Monday, Gingrich touted his conservative bona fides, saying he was "a lot more" conservative than Romney. He underlined his statement with comments by painting Romney as a flip-flopper.
Romney fired back Tuesday, calling his opponent a "lifelong politician," a loaded phrase at a time of strong anti-Washington sentiment.
But in the end, Gingrich said the American people want "Newt" because they "need someone who can debate Obama."
And should he secure the Republican nomination, Gingrich talked about his strategy to convince Obama to accept his "debate challenge."
"If the president has not accepted, I will announce (at the GOP convention in June) that the White House is now my scheduler, and wherever the president goes, I will follow him four hours later," Gingrich said in the interview.
"That means you have Gingrich taking apart the Obama speech three or four times a day."
On the campaign trail, Gingrich has repeated that if he winds up competing with Obama for the general election, he would challenge him to seven Lincoln-Douglas style debates, modeled after the long philosophical discussions between Abraham Lincoln and his opponent Stephen Douglas in 1858.
Gingrich said each debate would last three hours with no moderator. However, Gingrich jabs, Obama is allowed to bring a teleprompter "to make it fair."
The Commission on Presidential Debates has already scheduled the face-offs for next fall, which include three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate.
Eventually, Gingrich, a former college professor, said he thinks Obama would agree to his proposal of extra debates out of "pure ego."
"How can you be a Columbia, Harvard Law, editor of the Law Review, best orator in the Democratic Party and be afraid of some guy who taught at West Georgia College? How is he going to look himself in the mirror and say I can't stand up to Newt?" Gingrich said.