published Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Gingrich predicts 3rd comeback in Southern states

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center today in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center today in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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THOMAS BEAUMONT,Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Far behind in the race for the delegates needed to win the Republican presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich on Tuesday forecast a third campaign resurgence from a string of Southern primaries that lie ahead.

Campaigning in Alabama as voting was under way in Georgia, where Gingrich has said he must score a badly needed victory, the former House speaker called for a renewed commitment to space exploration during a visit to one of the nation's monuments to its venerable space program.

"This is the launching pad for the next phase of excitement and invention," he sat at the museum of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

He was referring to the space program, but may as well have been talking about his up-and-down campaign.

"This is the country of the future," he told more than 300 people standing in the shadow of an enormous Saturn rocket.

Gingrich was counting on a big win in Tuesday's primary in Georgia, part of which he represented in Congress for two decades. He also predicted better-than-expected finishes in Tennessee and Oklahoma in the 10-state series of contests.

By campaigning in Alabama, he signaled his intention to stay in the race.

Gingrich arrived in Atlanta on Tuesday evening to await the returns but was returning to Alabama first thing Wednesday and campaigning in Mississippi on Thursday. Both states hold their primaries March 13.

"For the third time, we're going to come bouncing back," Gingrich told the raucous Huntsville crowd. "With your help by the end of next week, we could really be in a totally new race."

Gingrich was referring to his rise in Iowa before a December slide fueled by millions of dollars in campaign ads attacking him. He roared back with a victory in South Carolina on Jan. 21, but that was matched by a downfall from which he has not recovered.

Favored to win in Georgia, Gingrich was setting his sights on the March 13 Southern bloc.

In recent days, the former House speaker has returned to the themes that lifted him before the leadoff Iowa caucuses at the start of the year, touting himself as the only candidate experienced with the issues facing the nation.

He has been mocked by rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for advocating a lunar colony and lighting U.S. highways with mirrors in space. But Gingrich returned the blow Tuesday, accusing both of having no vision.

"There are visionaries and there are people who will manage the decay. They are not in the same business," Gingrich told the Huntsville group. "I'm very proud to be a visionary. Being a visionary doesn't mean being impractical."

Gingrich has been helped by four political action committees, including one financed largely by billionaire Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

Yet Gingrich sought to portray a win in Georgia as a triumph in the face of heavy spending on ads attacking him by a political action committee that supports Romney.

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