Last Updated:September 1 @ 12:18 pm

Gingrich struggles with message

By Shannon McCaffrey

STORM LAKE, Iowa (AP) - As he scrambles to stop a slide in Iowa, Newt Gingrich's strategy amounts to this: hammer home a message about jobs and the economy while wrapping himself in the mantle of Ronald Reagan. But the loquacious former House speaker keeps struggling to stay on message.

On a 22-stop bus tour of Iowa, Gingrich finds himself unloading on his GOP rivals and reviving talk of a Greek cruise that nearly sank his campaign earlier this year. He fields questions about his work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, ethics allegations and whether his three marriages make him a polygamist.

The economy? Jobs? Those issues sometimes have been lost in the mix.

"It's been wild and woolly," Gingrich acknowledged to a voter as his wife, Callista, collected a double cappuccino at a Sioux City coffee shop.

If there was ever a time when Gingrich has needed the discipline he's long lacked, it's probably now, as polls show his support tumbling in Iowa in the wake of a storm of ads assailing him as a Washington insider who used his influence to line his pockets.

He now trails rivals Mitt Romney and Ron Paul in Iowa and even if he does manage to score in the top three in Tuesday's caucuses, he doesn't have the money or the organization at this point that those two opponents do as they prepare to go the distance in the state-by-state march to the GOP nomination.

Gingrich argues that his economic pitch is the key to victory, and he doubled down on it Thursday _or at least tried to.

He appeared in Storm Lake with noted Reagan economist Art Laffer, who praised Gingrich as "far and away the best person to bring this county back to prosperity." Gingrich outlined his tax-cutting economic proposal and implied he was the heir to Reagan's supply-side vision. But he also strayed into long-winded digressions on the federal government's regulation of particulate matter load and conflict in the Strait of Hormuz.

His trademark spray of ideas leaves some voters impressed - but overwhelmed.

"He has so many," said Ruth Lawlor, 76, who came to hear Gingrich speak at a chocolate store in Algona this week. "It's hard to keep track."

Gingrich's predilection to go for the jugular also has tripped him up, earning his self-described "positive" campaign headlines that he didn't want.

In an interview on CNN this week, Gingrich took the bait.

He not only blasted Romney and Paul but used some of the most incendiary language of the campaign so far. Romney wasn't "man enough" to own up to the negative attacks launched at Gingrich. And Paul was "totally outside the mainstream of every decent American."

Just days later, Gingrich seemed to be suffering from selective amnesia.

"The strategy of focusing on jobs and economic growth, staying positive and being pretty relentless in answering questions at every meeting is working," he said Thursday.

At his campaign events, Gingrich encourages his audiences to fire away with questions about allegations made in attack ads.

In recent days, he's been asked about an ethics fine he paid as speaker and his work for Freddie Mac.

"I don't understand numbers with all those zeros," said a man in Thursday's crowd, referring to the $1.6 million Gingrich's company earned from Freddie Mac.

Gingrich explained that he didn't take in all that money himself and that he fought to increase regulations and not increase funding for the government-sponsored entity.

The candidate argues that such forums give him an opportunity to set the record straight on issues that have been distorted. But they also dredge up the controversies, even as he seeks to put them behind him.

One example came in a telephone town hall meeting Wednesday night when a caller likened Gingrich's three marriages to polygamy.

"Jesus very specifically states in the Bible that divorced people are really still married, which I think technically means now that you're a polygamist, and I'm wondering what you'll do to legalize polygamy in the U.S. if you were to be elected president," the man said.

Gingrich labeled the question "fairly unusual" and said he would oppose any effort to legalize polygamy.

The former Georgia congressman acknowledges his tendency to stray off script.

At Mabe's Pizza in Decorah he was asked why his Republican rivals have been so eager to embrace government intervention in the economy.

He paused and an impish smile crept across his face.

"I'll just get in trouble," he said.

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. pistol packing mamaComment by txgoatlady
    December 30, 2011 @ 10:31 am

    I guess Reagan was a polygamist as well. He divorced his first wife. He was a pretty decent president. Kennedy and Clinton both had mistresses at the same time they were married. I guess since they didn’t marry those women they weren’t polygamists. What a strange argument to have with a candidate.

    I found out yesterday that Gingrich’s first wife was his high school geometry teacher and 7 years his senior. Sounds like a doomed relationship from the start. 

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  2. runt913Comment by runt913
    December 30, 2011 @ 11:32 am

    I will be voting Jan 3 in the Iowa Caucuses, as will, for the first time, my 18 year old son.  I have watched all but one of the debates, I have read up on all the candidates, and by Tuesday, I will have heard, in person, two of them speak during their bus tours.  I have seen, ad nauseum, all the negative adds inundating the airwaves.
    I believe all the candidates love my country and advocate for much-needed change.  I believe all the candidates hold dear the same principles that I hold dear. (Some more than others).  I truly believe any of them would be better than the current “president”.
    After much reading, listening and comparing, however, I believe there are only two candidates in the field that have the intestinal fortitude, intelligence and experience to carry out/fight for the enormous changes that need to take place.
    Whether or not the candidate I vote for on Tuesday can orate, is too Christian, is not a Christian, or has baggage, my choice will be based on which one can effect the quickest return to living under the Constitution.
    None align with me 100%, but I would much rather have someone in office that will probably take a few wrong turns down the right road than someone who most assuredly will take all the right turns down the wrong road.

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  3. wolfComment by wolf
    December 30, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

    Excellent post Runt913.  I wish every American would have the common sense to evaluate the candidates as you have.  I am tired of all the hype, deceitful comments, and Republicans looking for Jesus (the only perfect person) as their choice.

    We need a President who loves this country, is tough, is smart, and doesn’t need training wheels when he gets in there.  I know who’s going to get my vote.

    But you get my vote for being very smart in your approach.  Good on ya, dude!   

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