Gingrich confident of victory

Last modified: 4/21/2011 12:00:00 AM
Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich told a small group of Republicans in Manchester last night he is "calmly confident" he can win his party's nomination and the White House.

Gingrich cast the 2012 election as a decisive moment in the nation's history, saying voters would decide between a socialist welfare agenda and a message of American exceptionalism, economic growth and national security. He described President Obama as a "perfectly fine, extraordinarily brilliant, sadly shallow, left-wing activist who has never yet become president."

"He's the only permanent candidate we've ever had in the White House," Gingrich said to applause from his audience of about 30 last night at a fundraiser for the state Republican committee.

Gingrich said he will decide whether to officially declare his candidacy by early May, and he appealed to the evening's guests to demonstrate their support. Gingrich said he will never match the personal wealth of potential Republican rivals like Donald Trump, Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, and so is assessing his fundraising potential through donations to his exploratory website.

"We're trying to figure out, can we raise enough money to be competitive?" he said.

Attendees paid $250 to attend the reception yesterday evening, and 10 guests paid $1,000 to have dinner with Gingrich afterward.

Gingrich stood in front of a buffet table in the small lounge of an Italian restaurant as he explained his plan for a GOP victory. Republicans can win, he said, by showing Americans a vision of a better future, where limited government and low taxes would lead to prosperity and allow the nation to regain its pre-eminence. He acknowledged that a degree of hardship could accompany a concerted shrinking of government.

"Yes, it's true, we may have to put America on a diet. So we better sell the bathing suit picture so they can decide the diet's worthwhile," Gingrich said. "We cannot be the party of austerity and pain and win."

Voters will support candidates who understand their problems and offer solutions, Gingrich said. He cited a recent statistic of high unemployment among black teenagers, suggesting Republicans have a message that can resonate beyond their traditional constituencies.

"Republicans have to have the courage to go to every neighborhood in America and offer a better future," Gingrich said. "And I'm prepared to say that if you'd rather have your children have a paycheck than a food stamp, let's talk."

Gingrich said Republicans could win nearly every neighborhood in the country with that message. But though he claimed broad appeal, he did not hesitate to draw a line between his message and that of the "elites," whether in politics, the media or academia. At one point, as he described the potential for transformation in the upcoming election, Gingrich said that being an American is rooted in a way of life and an appreciation for the Constitution and its granted rights.

"You can come here as a first-generation American and overnight become an American," Gingrich said. "You can live here as a tenured faculty member at a weird university and never quite get it."

When a guest brought up recent signs of support for a Trump candidacy, Gingrich said the real estate mogul would make a better chief executive than Obama.

"If my choice was Barack Obama or Donald Trump, I would have zero hesitation saying that Donald Trump is dramatically less dangerous to America's future than Barack Obama, and I'd be happy to campaign for him," Gingrich said.

Earlier, Gingrich told reporters that he thought it was fair game for Trump to raise questions about Obama's citizenship.

"Anything is a fair question in this society," he said. "It's the nature of modern America."

Asked if climate change is a problem government should address, Gingrich said evidence of global warming is incomplete.

"I think we honestly don't know," he said. "I think the evidence is not nearly as complete as the computerized models, and I think that the understanding of climatology is a lot more incomplete than the global warming advocates would have you believe."

Gingrich said he could see taking "prudent" and cost-effective steps to address climate change but would not support any form of a cap-and-trade program.

"I would not adopt massively expensive plans over a theory," he said.

At the reception, as he waited to take a photo with Gingrich, New London financial analyst Viggo Carstensen said he's already made up his mind. Carstensen said the country needs a leader who will take it in a new direction, and he's convinced Gingrich has the experience and the intelligence for the task.

"The question is whether or not he can win the primary," Carstensen said. "If he wins the primary, I think he could sweep Obama under the rug in any kind of debate."

Lance Macey, an orthopedic surgeon from Hooksett, said he hasn't decided which Republican candidate to support. Macey said he hoped to speak with Gingrich about the details of his policies, but he has a favorable view thus far.

"He's got what it takes," Macey said. "He's very bright, and he's in the right place on the issues."

Before the guests left, state party Chairman Jack Kimball told them New Hampshire voters will decide the next president.

"I do believe that New Hampshire will choose in its primary, as its primary candidate, the next president of the United States," Kimball said.

In a statement yesterday, the chairman of the state Democrats said New Hampshire voters would reject Gingrich because he would cut social safety nets and repeal the health care act. Chairman Ray Buckley said Gingrich's congressional record has "made him a darling of extreme fiscal conservatives but not right for Granite Staters who value commonsense policies that help those in need over a drown-the-government agenda."

(Karen Langley can be reached at 369-3316 or klangley@cmonitor.com.)




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