(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.
I am so proud of Newt Gingrich
Can you imagine living with this ego for four years?
Didn't take long for his head to swell up like a Macy's balloon, did it! Don't be in the airstream when it deflates!
Hey, I've got an idea! Instead of not newt how about NO Newt.
We don't have to wait that long, not newt
Does this man's ego know any bounds??
Pahleeeezzzzzeeee!!!! It will come down to FLIP and not FLOP versus FLOP and not FLIP.............PERIOD!!! Then the real race begins in the General Election and the best Flip/Flop from the RIGHT will DROP!!! lol
newts a wacko
No ego there at all folks. He is basically saying that he is going to the nomination. I guess you have to have some ego for this race, but that is too much.
If he wants to make the debates fair, then Obama should be able to bring video of Gingrich going back and forth on issues like Romney and evidence of his hypocracy when it comes to being a pro-family person (three marriages anyone?).
ANYONE BUT NEWT!!!!!! He's going to try to buy a presidency and then make even more
money for his friends and himself. This is not a man to represent America or Americans.
The Republicans would lose once more.
Gingrich's arrogance knows no bounds. Independants and democrats hope and pray he wins the republican nomination. There's not a chance in hell Gingrich can beat Obama.
Not Newt please. The frugal millionaire and unfaithful husband doesn't stand a chance!
Man does this guy have a big head. He thinks he is better than every one else and didn't need to be a lobbiest for Freddie Mac because he already made more than enough money giving paid speeches (part of the 1%) Repuiblican voters are going to turn to Newt, from Cain, makes no sense..