O'Brien endorses Gingrich

Last modified: 12/22/2011 12:00:00 AM
New Hampshire Republicans did such a good job cutting the state budget that Newt Gingrich has big plans for House Speaker Bill O'Brien, whose endorsement yesterday was "particularly meaningful" to the former U.S. House speaker.

Gingrich is tempted to take O'Brien on the campaign trail with him, he told more than 100 people in a ballroom at the Radisson hotel in Manchester.

"We may want him to go around the country and do a road show where he says, 'Obama budget, New Hampshire budget, Obama budget, New Hampshire budget,' " said Gingrich, standing at a podium and gesturing with one hand to represent what he sees as out-of-control spending and the other hand to represent sound governance.

"Can you imagine what Washington would be like if they had had the courage to match New Hampshire in that kind of fiscal discipline? It would have been remarkable," Gingrich said.

O'Brien, joined by Gingrich's state chairwoman, Rep. Laurie Sanborn, reciprocated Gingrich's praise.

"He will return our country to being the beacon of freedom and opportunity to the world that it has been for decades before the current presidency," O'Brien said.

After a brief statement, Gingrich took questions from the audience on topics including health care and his ability to win the general election. But after a second questioner self-identified as a conservative "refugee" from Massachusetts, Gingrich asked a question of his own.

"How many people here are refugees from Massachusetts? Raise your hand," Gingrich, a former college professor, instructed. About a quarter of the hands went up. Gingrich was inspired.

"Maybe on the 4th, when I fly in from Iowa, we could actually have a 'Massachusetts Reminder Rally,' so everybody could be reminded what the real choice is in the primary, between two very different approaches to governing," Gingrich said.

True to his fiery roots, Gingrich had harsh words for Washington Democrats who support a two-month deal to extend the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits, rather than a one-year agreement supported by Republicans. It creates further uncertainty, he said, and is a "stupid way" to run the country.

"This is worthy of the Italian parliament," Gingrich said to audience laughter.

"This is a Barack Obama, Harry Reid, deliberately deceptive strategy for purely political gain," Gingrich said to reporters after the event. "Frankly I think it's disheartening to see them turn us into a third world country with politics that are unworthy of the United States, and all they've got to do is bring the Senate back," he said. "What's such a big deal about the Senate coming back to Washington to do its job?"

And he all but challenged Mitt Romney to a rumble.

So-called Super PACs sympathetic to Romney have launched millions of dollars of misleading ads in Iowa, and Romney should stop them, Gingrich has repeatedly said. Romney, in turn, told reporters yesterday that Gingrich simply can't stand the heat in the proverbial kitchen.

"If he wants to test the heat, I'll meet him anywhere in Iowa next week, one-on-one, 90 minutes," Gingrich said. For a debate, that is.

"Let's test this kitchen. I'm happy. I'll go in the kitchen. Go back and ask Governor Romney, would you like to come play in the kitchen? I don't think so. I don't think he wants to do anything except hide over here and pretend it's not his fault that he's flooding the people of Iowa with falsehoods," Gingrich said. "I can take the heat plenty well."

The audience at the event was largely pro-Gingrich, and some were disappointed supporters of Herman Cain. But some remained undecided, including Patrick Connelly, a farmer in Chester, who attended the event with his 4-year-old son. Connelly has no party affiliation, wasn't totally enamored of Gingrich but is still open to voting for him.

"He's reasonable and knows how to work with others," Connelly said. "I think that's important."

(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or mconnors@cmonitor.com.)

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