[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/09/art.gingrich.srlc2.cnn.jpg caption="Gingrich is touting Sarah Palin's role in the Republican Party."](CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, still considered among the most influential members of the Republican Party, is touting Sarah Palin's impact on the GOP and her future in the party.
"Sarah Palin is tremendously important right now, I mean for maybe 40 percent of the country, she personifies courage, clarity," Gingrich told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Both Gingrich and Palin were among the event's featured speakers.
"She's attractive, she's articulate, she has energy," Gingrich continued in the interview set to air Sunday on CNN's State of The Union. "Watch the size of her crowds…And I think whether that translates into something bigger later or whether she's just a very significant person for the rest of her life, she is a real player, nobody should underestimate her."
Gingrich also said Palin's prominence in the Republican Party will continue, regardless of whether she decides to mount a presidential bid in 2012.
"I think she has the potential to fill a niche for a very long time, particularly in an age of cable television and talk radio when you can build your particular market and your audience, and they can love you and come to your meetings and do things with you, and she's done, I think the last couple months she's been very impressive," he said.
But, should Palin decide to launch a presidential campaign, would she be a formidable opponent against President Obama?
"Well, if my choice was Sarah Palin or Barack Obama, I'd rather have Sarah Palin," said Gingrich.