Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich all but ignored his three opponents in Tuesday’s primary election during his Thursday visit to Macon.
Instead, he focused on denouncing President Barack Obama. In a speech to about 300 people at Hephzibah Children’s Home on Zebulon Road, Gingrich mentioned his Republican rivals in passing, only to dismiss them.
He was introduced by Bill Knowles, local Republican activist and Gingrich’s campaign co-chairman in the 2nd Congressional District.
“America needs a leader we can be proud of again,” Knowles told the crowd, almost entirely white and averaging middle-age.
Connie Parker, of Macon, said she was at the rally to back Gingrich because he’s the best man for the job both in foreign policy and in spirit.
“I think he’s the most godly candidate,” she said.
Gingrich virtually ignored Ron Paul and labeled Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as “traditional politicians” while touting himself as the only Republican with a “vision” to challenge Obama’s.
That resonated with Deborah Elkins, waving a sign that said “Newt-er Obama.”
She said she thinks Gingrich is the only candidate who can beat the incumbent.
Gingrich’s main theme was promoting his energy policy, promising $2.50-per-gallon gasoline through expanded oil drilling, opening offshore areas and federal lands and approving the recently rejected Keystone Pipeline from Canada.
He accused Obama of “deliberate dishonesty,” driving up gasoline prices intentionally to promote alternative energy.
Gingrich said he would support investment and research in other energy sources, but claimed more domestic drilling could end American dependence on oil from the Middle East.
That would allow him to tell longtime ally Saudi Arabia that it’s on its own, and tell Europe and China they can deal with Mideast turmoil without American help, he said.
Gingrich denounced Obama as weakening America militarily, but he acknowledged that terrorism can’t be defeated primarily with military force.
Recent anti-American upheaval in Afghanistan should cause a re-evaluation of policy there, Gingrich said.
“If the people of Afghanistan don’t want to be protected, we ought to pull out as rapidly as possible,” he said.
If elected president, Gingrich said, he would dismantle about 40 percent of the government on his first day in office and demand that Republican congressional candidates pledge to repeal Obama’s health care reform, and the Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley financial regulatory acts.
Near the end of his speech, Gingrich threw in lines for particular constituencies: opposing use of any American foreign-aid money or organizations connected with abortion, and moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.
He closed by asking the crowd to promote his $2.50-per-gallon tagline on social media and solicit donations via e-mail from their friends nationwide.
Ten states are holding their primaries or caucuses on Tuesday. That day, dubbed Super Tuesday, will provide more than a third of the delegates needed to win the Republican Party’s nomination at the Aug. 27 party convention in Tampa, Fla.
Among the 11 states to hold contests so far, Gingrich has won only one, South Carolina. But Georgia’s 76 delegates are the largest Super Tuesday prize.
A RealClearPolitics average of four polls on Tuesday shows Gingrich with a 34 percent-to-24 percent lead over Santorum in Georgia, with Romney in third place at 22 percent and Paul at 8 percent.
Gingrich has high hopes for Georgia to revitalize his campaign.
He represented Atlanta’s northern suburbs for 20 years in Congress and was speaker of the House from 1995 until 1999, when he resigned after an ethics reprimand and Republican losses in the 1998 midterm elections.
Santorum is also campaigning in Georgia, but Gingrich is criss-crossing the state, heading on to Savannah, Brunswick, Valdosta and Columbus before the vote, then holding a “Georgia Primary Night Party with Newt & Callista” at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel.
Even among Thursday’s crowd, however, the primary outcome was still in doubt.
Travis Kyte said he still wants to get information on all the Republican candidates and was glad to see Gingrich in person.
“He’s right here in our backyard,” Kyte said.