Newt Gingrich campaigns in his home territory

Newt Gingrich campaigns in his home territory

February 29th, 2012 by Chris Carroll in News

Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks at a rally Tuesday at the Northwest Georgia Convention Center in Dalton, Ga., as wife, Callista, looks on.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

GINGRICH'S PRIMARY PERFORMANCE

Arizona

Mitt Romney took 48 percent of the vote. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum came in second with 26 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took 16 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul won 8 percent.

Michigan

Returns from 97 percent of Michigan's precincts showed Romney had earned 41 percent of the vote and Santorum had 38 percent. Paul had won 12 percent and Gingrich 7 percent.

ROME, Ga. - Down in the polls with only a week before Tennessee, Georgia and eight other states host presidential primaries, Newt Gingrich on Tuesday roused friendly home-state crowds, attacking Rick Santorum along the way.

"A lot of people will take a second look," the Republican former U.S. House speaker said in an interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "Everybody who hadn't thought about Santorum now [thinks] about Santorum because the news media told them to."

Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Gingrich's comments came three days after hundreds of Chattanooga residents flocked to Santorum's speech at Abba's House in Hixson, where the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania promised manufacturing jobs, hammered on pro-life issues and called President Barack Obama a "snob" for saying every American child should go to college.

"Do you really believe in a general election that Rick Santorum could beat Obama?" Gingrich said. "I think the answer clearly is no."

A recent Vanderbilt University poll of likely Republican voters shows Santorum with a 2-to-1 Tennessee lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Gingrich finished last, drawing only 10 percent.

Seeking a momentum shift Tuesday, Gingrich tossed red-meat material to a rowdy crowd at a campaign rally in Rome, calling President Barack Obama the most "anti-religious" president in American history and saying he'll lower the price of gasoline to $2.50 per gallon.

"By the time Obama lands in Chicago," Gingrich said of his own hypothetical Inauguration Day, "we would have liked to have repealed at least 40 percent of his government."

Earlier at a rally in Dalton, Ga., the former House Speaker attacked Obama's apology over the burning of Korans in Afghanistan. Two Americans have been killed in Afghanistan since protests erupted after military officials said the Islamic texts were accidentally burned.

"I believe no American president should apologize when young Americans are being killed," Gingrich said.

At press briefing Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration "has been very clear and transparent in its efforts" to demonstrate "respect for the religious beliefs of American Muslims and Muslims abroad."

"The partnership with Muslims is vital in the effort to combat domestic radicalization," Carney said.

Southern Base

Advisers to Gingrich's campaign, which has risen from the dead as many times as it has fallen, said the candidate emphasized gas prices and religion Tuesday to excite a conservative Southern base he may lose anyway.

Recent polls show Gingrich with a comfortable but shrinking home state lead in Georgia, and the Vanderbilt poll indicates an uphill battle in the Volunteer State. Even Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who Gingrich never mentioned in two afternoon stops, polled 3 points higher than Gingrich's 10 percent in Tennessee.

But the Vanderbilt poll showed 27 percent are undecided, and Gingrich's supporters are hanging on.

Gail Bowman, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran dressed in an American flag-decorated shirt at the Dalton rally, said "Newt's the only one who can really debate Obama."

Debbie Rhea, a 51-year-old karaoke host from Trenton, Ga., was impressed by Gingrich's rhetorical abilities. Sometimes she considers Gingrich's well-publicized past marital problems, but "Christianity is all about forgiveness," Rhea said.

"I think he's done his best to try to atone for his ills," Rhea said. "He seems to be honorable now. He's the best candidate that we have."

Gingrich said he stumped in Georgia on Tuesday despite the day's primaries in Arizona and Michigan "because we thought it was important to campaign here." Along with eight other states, Tennessee and Georgia host presidential primaries Tuesday. Georgia has 78 delegates at stake, the most of any Super Tuesday state, and Tennessee has the third-most at 58.

Gingrich began his day with an invitation-only breakfast fundraiser at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The required $1,000 admission fee bought about an hour with Gingrich, along with a spread of bagels, muffins, Danish, coffee and tea. Donors said terrorism and gas prices were among the topics discussed. About 20 people attended.

A few persistent Occupy Chattanooga protesters stood outside on Market Street, yelling slogans and holding posters. One held a sign that said "Welcome to the Chattah--oops," referring to a fundraiser invitation obtained by the Times Free Press last week that said "Chattahoochee Choo Choo" rather than the landmark's correct name.

"Will you listen to the people or just the Adelsons?" one poster said, referring to Gingrich's stalwart donor and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who, along with his wife, has donated millions to a political action committee that supports Gingrich.

There were no protest groups in Dalton or Rome. A few hundred attended each rally.

During a Chattanooga Times Free Press interview, Gingrich was asked if he considers himself a Washington insider. The former House speaker and Freddie Mac consultant said no.

"I think I'm a lot like Reagan," he said. "Reagan served eight years as president and nobody thought he was a Washington insider. If you look at my policy proposals, they're clearly those of an outsider."