(This is a guest report from USF Journalism student John Stevenson. Thanks John!).
by John Stevenson, for the Neighborhood News Bureau
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, the Tick Tock Restaurant at 8123 Fourth St. N. in St. Petersburg was not only full to capacity, it was standing room only. A crowd of more than 200 people were there for the breakfast special: a campaign stop from former Speaker of the House and Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich is canvassing Florida on a bus tour after his GOP debate performance Monday in Tampa. He stopped in St. Petersburg and spoke for approximately 20 minutes to energize his base before the Republican primary next Tuesday, Jan. 31.
The crowd of mostly retirees stood in applause after Florida’s former attorney general Bill McCollum introduced Gingrich who immediately went on the attack against fellow GOP presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. In a return barb to Romney’s comments about Gingrinch’s ties to Freddie Mac and his record as speaker, Gingrich told Tick Tock’s customers Romney had hired a “new debate coach” whose advice is “to say as many untrue things as fast as you can.”
In an effort to distance himself from Romney as the true conservative candidate, Gingrich sought to highlight the divide in their philosophies by tying his campaign to that of Tea Party favorite Sen. Marco Rubio and Romney to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
Gingrich said Mallea is helping with the campaign. Gingrich then said that Romney had acquired Charlie Christ’s former campaign workers.
“I thought that sort of told you everything you need to know,” he said. The crowd chuckled and nodded approvingly.
“Power comes from God to each one of you personally. You are personally sovereign. No government can come between you and God. No bureaucrat, no judge, no president can come between you and God,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said the president believed that government is smart and should be big and that people are dumb and should be small.
“The government should be your servant and not the other way around,” he said.
He asked the audience if they wanted to raise their children to earn a paycheck or raise them to be dependent on the government for assistance.
“I’m in favor of jobs and paychecks. I would like to run a campaign this fall in which we have a paycheck candidate versus a dependency and food stamp candidate,” he said.
Newt attacked President Obama’s national security and foreign policies. “It’s really simple: I believe we live in a dangerous world. I believe there are people who would like to kill us or destroy our civilization,” he said.
Gingrich said America should design its defense budget by knowing who the enemy is.
“Obama lives in a fantasy land,” he said.
Gingrich assailed Obama’s decision to veto the Keystone oil pipeline project.
“The president basically bowed to some left-wing extremists in San Francisco. Imagine an American president who will make a Chinese-Canadian partnership more desirable than working with the United States,” he said.
Gingrich suggested that President Obama cancelled the Keystone pipeline so George Soros would profit from the cancellation.
Gingrich asked the crowd to help the Republicans pick up House and Senate seats and to beat Sen. Bill Nelson this fall. He said he needs a GOP majority in both Houses to repeal laws and remove President Obama’s “White House Czars.”
“Our goal would be, that by the time Obama’s plane lands in Chicago, I could have dismantled about 40 percent of his government that afternoon,” he said.
When a woman asked if Gingrich could restore Chicago, Gingrich said, “There are limits to my ability to be able to wave a magic wand.”
Gingrich said a large number of supporters would allow him to win the Republican debate Tuesday despite Romney’s substantial financial support.
“The fact is Governor Romney will have vastly more money than I will, but we will have many more people than he will. This is exactly what happened in South Carolina and people power beats money power every time,” he said.
Gingrich continued his attack on Romney. “We can make a very simple case: as governor of Massachusetts, he was pro-abortion, pro-gay rights, pro-tax increase and pro-gun control. Now, that makes him a moderate in Massachusetts, but it makes him pretty liberal in the Republican primary, which probably explains why he hired Charlie Crist’s staff,” he said.
Gingrich said if he wins, he’ll be the Republican nominee for president. According to Gallup polls from Jan. 19 to 23, his support among registered Republican voters rose from 28 to 31 percent while Romney’s support dropped from 29 to 27 percent.
A full listing of the candidates’ approval and performance can be found here: http://www.gallup.com/poll/152147/Gingrich-Erases-Romney-National-Lead.aspx
Gingrich said he would challenge President Obama to seven three-hour Lincoln-Douglas style debates if he wins the Republican nomination in Tampa next August. He said that Obama can use a teleprompter when debating health care and if the president doesn’t agree to the debates he’ll let the White House set his schedule and follow the president wherever he goes.
“Four hours after he speaks I will answer his speech, take apart his logic and rebut his falsehoods,” he said.
Gingrich said the president believes America doesn’t have any real enemies, only moments of confusion between people who have always loved us. Gingrich said his vision for America follows the Constitution, rebuilds citizenship and gives people the power to be safe in a dangerous world.