Gingrich energizes backers at campaign stops in state
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, in a campaign swing through Washington, lashes out at Obama over gas prices.
Seattle Times political reporter
Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich made it all sound so very simple on a campaign swing through Washington state Friday.
Elect him, Gingrich told a packed rally in at a hotel in Federal Way, and he would return the nation to the days of $2.50-a-gallon gasoline, create millions of new jobs, and pay off the federal debt.
And that was just the energy-policy part of Gingrich's stump speech.
Campaigning here ahead of the March 3 GOP precinct caucuses, Gingrich, the confidence-exuding former U.S. House speaker, also said he would eliminate the capital-gains tax, slash corporate taxes and repeal much of President Obama's agenda the day he is inaugurated.
Seeking to capitalize on an issue Republicans feel can harm Obama, Gingrich spoke at length about gas prices, which have risen in Washington state to an average of $3.78 a gallon for regular unleaded, according to AAA.
Gingrich mocked Obama as "anti-energy," accusing the administration of wanting to force Americans into small cars. "What he really believes is that we should all be required to get out of any vehicle that is larger than the one he wants us to drive," Gingrich said.
He drew derisive laughs when talking about the Obama administration's efforts to support alternative energy, such as fuel made of algae.
Noting the president's recent speech in which he said there is no "silver bullet" to solve high energy prices, Gingrich said, "Of course there is — defeat Obama."
Gingrich urged supporters to log into Facebook or send emails to spread the message that "Newt equals $2.50 a gallon."
When a woman shouted "I want a dollar!" Gingrich replied: "If I were a liberal Democrat, I would promise you a dollar. I'm pretty sure I can get you between $2 and $2.50 through the free market without being dishonest."
He said that crisp gas-price slogan, if supporters spread the word, could sweep him to victory in the Washington caucuses next week.
Gingrich said he would cut energy prices by boosting oil drilling in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and other areas, as well as approving new oil refineries. And he said he would repeal Obama's signature accomplishments, such as the health-care and Wall Street reform laws. He repeated his charge of recent days that Obama's apology to Afghanistan over a Quran burning at a U.S. base was a mistake because other nations don't apologize to the U.S. over similar affronts.
Several hundred supporters spilled out of the hotel ballroom into an overflow room and outside the hotel entrance. The crowd periodically chanted "Newt Newt" as Gingrich strolled outside to greet the throng.
Don Wilbur, a supporter from University Place, Pierce County, said he appreciated Gingrich's ability "to express Republican principles like no one else."
Campaigning with his wife, Callista, Gingrich made the Federal Way stop after an appearance in Olympia in the morning and before heading to another rally Friday night in Everett.
He spoke at rallies in Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Thursday.
In a news conference at the state Capitol after meeting with Republican legislators, Gingrich declined to harshly criticize the state's recently passed law legalizing same-sex marriage, saying the state at least was likely to hold a public vote on the issue.
He noted that judges have authorized same-sex marriage in other places.
"I think at least they're doing it the right way, which is going through voters, giving them a chance to vote and not having a handful of judges arbitrarily impose their will," Gingrich said.
A November referendum is not guaranteed. Opponents of the Washington law need more than 120,000 valid voter signatures by June 6 to put the law on hold pending a referendum.
Gingrich made clear he opposes gay marriage personally and would vote no on such a referendum if one ever were to come up in his home state of Georgia.
That posture diverged somewhat from rival Rick Santorum, who campaigned in Washington the same day the law was signed.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, questioned the effectiveness of having states decide the definition of marriage. He supports a federal constitutional amendment making marriage exclusively between a man and a woman.
Despite lagging in recent polls behind rivals, Gingrich told reporters the "roller-coaster" campaign would drag on and that Washington's caucuses are "really important because they're the last political event before Super Tuesday (March 6) — so everybody would like to do well here."
Although Gingrich was slow to begin organizing in Washington, his campaign has ramped up recently.
Gingrich has hired Lew Moore, a former congressional aide who ran Ron Paul's 2008 national campaign, to direct his caucus-organizing efforts in the state.
Moore said the campaign also has brought in additional paid staff, including some of the lead organizers of Gingrich's South Carolina primary victory.
Gingrich is the third GOP presidential contender to visit Washington ahead of the caucuses, following Santorum and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has scheduled a visit for next Thursday.
Seattle Times staff reporter Andrew Garber contributed to this report, which also includes material from
The Associated Press.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @Jim_Brunner.