Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich conducted one of his trademark lectures Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, lambasting a GOP establishment he said was “as mired in the past and as mired in stupidity as it was in 1976.”

Gingrich, a 2012 presidential candidate and for years, a member of the conservative establishment, called on Republicans to become the party of fresh ideas. He said the Republican-controlled House needed to do more to hold President Obama accountable for a series of big-government policies trapped in the “age of candles.”

“You’re going to hear a false attack that we don’t need new ideas,” Gingrich told the crowd at the National Harbor, just outside the nation’s capital. “I’d like to draw a distinction. We don’t need new principles.”

Gingrich gained a surprising amount of traction in the Republican presidential primary, riding strong debate performances and winning over some voters with his professorial style.

During his early-morning speech, Gingrich said fresh ideas were not exclusive to the Republican Party. At one point, Gingrich made an eyebrow-raising endorsement, praising a recent book by Gavin Newsom, the Democratic lieutenant governor of California.

Gingrich also called on Republicans to focus on more than just Obama and green eyeshade issues.

“The Republican establishment is just plain wrong about how it approaches politics,” Gingrich insisted to rising applause.

However, the reaction to Gingrich was noticeably more muted than the response to Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who fired up the crowd in speeches before and after the former House speaker.

And some audience members said the Gingrich remarks were vintage Newt — for better or worse.

“I love the guy,” said Shelby Rogers, of Atlanta, Ga. “But I could understand why some people think he’s talking down to them.”