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Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich predicted Wednesday that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2008 after winning re-election to her Senate seat "handily" in 2006.

Gingrich, answering a question after an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors here, called Clinton a "formidable" candidate for president.

"Any Republican who thinks she will be easy to beat has total amnesia about the history of the Clintons," he said.

To illustrate his point, he rattled off a string of political victories by former President Bill Clinton followed by Hillary Clinton's winning of the U.S. Senate race in New York in 2000.

"She will be the nominee, and she has the smartest American politician as her adviser," Gingrich said, alluding to Sen. Clinton's husband.

The former president "desperately wants to have the East Wing -- it's the next wave."

Gingrich quipped as the audience of editors laughed, "I trust she will give him the same office he gave her."

He characterized the New York senator as "very competent, very professional, very intelligently moving toward the center . . . very shrewdly and effectively serving on the Armed Services Committee."

Gingrich -- who may be considering a run for president himself in 2008 -- said he believes that Hillary Clinton has wisely moved toward the center politically and has broadened her political base by doing so.

In response to another question, Gingrich said he believes that Democrats could recapture the South if the party embraces the role of religion and God in Americans' lives.

He said he believes that a pro-gun stance and an opposition to, at the least, "partial-birth abortion" would be necessary elements in that equation.

Gingrich, a Republican powerhouse during the administration of President Clinton, resigned from the House and the leadership in 1998 after ethics charges that he had illegally diverted tax-exempt charitable funds for political purposes.