On a day packed with fundraising events to refuel his campaign, Newt Gingrich insisted Monday that he would not drop out of the GOP presidential contest even though polls show he is not now winning the argument against Rick Santorum that he is the best conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.
The former House speaker also appealed specifically to California conservatives, promising to make the state competitive in the fall, calling for the preservation of memorial crosses that came under fire for being on public land, knocking the teachers union in Los Angeles for defending incompetent teachers, saying he would rein in federal environmental officials, and pledging to take on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which just ruled against the state’s same-sex marriage initiative.
“This is a consistently bigoted, anti-religious court,” Gingrich said, also pointing to its controversial decision that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the Consitution. “I’d ask the Congress to look seriously at either impeaching or replacing the 9th Circuit.”
Gingrich was in the state primarily to raise money, but he deflected questions about whether that meant his campaign was in financial trouble.
“My fundraising has always been difficult because when you are a candidate of bold new ideas, it takes a while,” he said.
In between fundraising events, he stopped at Cielito Lindo Restaurant to speak to more than 150 California Latinos who are backing his campaign, many of whom noted his advocacy of creating a way for illegal immigrants who have been in the country for years to become legal residents.
Rosario Marin, the former U.S treasurer from Huntington Park, said that Gingrich had dealt with the hot-button issue respectfully, praised his proposals and said he could get the job done.
“You get to be speaker of the House because you’re tough, you have an agenda and you can sell that agenda,” she said.
Gingrich mocked the National Review for calling on him to leave the field to Romney and Santorum, saying he has been pronounced dead before and rebounded. Noting that he had earlier suggested Santorum leave the race, Gingrich said, “He decided that was not a good idea, and he was right.”
He said that his campaign had analyzed his losses since South Carolina and concluded he needed to change his strategy to focus more on his ideas and less on his opponents. “I do dramatically better when I focus on the nation’s problems and I focus on the nation’s solutions. I don’t do nearly as well when I focus on my competitors,” he said.
He said that he would stress his plans to create jobs, balance the budget and cut the price of gasoline. “I think I’m clearly much bolder than Rick Santorum or Romney. I think my ideas are much clearer and much more specific,” he said. “We’re going to go back and do what works.”
Although no Republican presidential candidate has won in California since George H.W. Bush in 1988, Gingrich told the crowd he would make California competitive in the general election. “I believe, if we are prepared to campaign everywhere, that we can put California absolutely right in play, and we can do it by reaching out to everybody across the whole state,” he said.
Gingrich devoted much of his speech to his promise to bring down the price of gas, saying that he would accelerate domestic oil exploration.
“We know how to get gasoline prices back down. Produce more gas,” he said. “Join us in a campaign to drill here, drill now, pay less and let’s get back to $2 a gallon gasoline with Gingrich, not $5 a gallon gasoline with Obama.”
He also promised to “shrink the government in Washington to fit the revenue” and to cut regulations, citing in particular the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency and Fish and Wildlife Service in California, though he did not specifically mention any onerous regulations. “They have been killing jobs and creating mass unemployment with no sense of responsibility, and it’s profoundly wrong,” he said.
“The time to stop it is right now,” he said. “What Obama wants is business as usual while he radically changes the country.”
He accused the president of waging war against the Roman Catholic Church with his administration’s decision to require employers to cover contraception and attacked the president’s compromise, which requires insurers and not the church to provide it.
“I don’t know who in the Obama White House thought the American people were so dumb that they couldn’t figure out that this was blatantly dishonest,” he said.
Saying that religious liberty matters, Gingrich turned to the controversy over memorial crosses in California.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the cross atop San Diego’s Mt. Soledad but did not order it removed, instead sending the case back to the trial court. It also ruled against the cross in the Mojave National Preserve, even though the land under it was transferred to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Gingrich did not mention that the Obama administration sided with the VFW when that case was argued in the Supreme Court. The court ruled the cross could stay, but it was stolen less than two weeks later.
“If you think, for example, that the cross in San Diego, the Mount Soledad cross, should be allowed to stay up, we want you to be with us,” he said, sparking loud applause. “If you think the 1934 VFW cross in the Mojave Desert ought to be put back up, then we want you to be with us.”
When he finished speaking, someone in the audience shouted: “Viva Newt!”
The first questioner wanted to know what the candidate was going to do for his wife, Callista, on Valentine’s Day. Gingrich said they would have a private dinner, hopefully exchange gifts and “reconnect a little bit,” which drew whoops from the crowd and led Gingrich to say: “No more details.”
He took a number of questions from the predominantly Latino crowd on immigration, reiterating his proposal to create a process that would have local boards determine whether long-term illegal immigrants could qualify for residence permits and calling for a guest worker program. He also said that he supported a narrow Dream Act that would not grant citizenship to immigrants who graduate from college, but to those who join the military. “I think it’s honorable to serve the country, and I think it makes it relatively easy,” he said, suggesting that college students could join ROTC.
When he finished, someone yelled: “Let’s go to the moon.” Gingrich, who has typically rolled out state-specific proposals, proposed establishing a colony on the moon when he was campaigning in Florida.