When Polk County GOP officials scheduled Newt Gingrich’s appearance at their annual fundraiser, they hoped for a crowd of 300. That was back when Gingrich was still struggling to break out of the pack of presidential candidates.
Thursday’s event far exceeded anyone’s expectations. A standing room only crowd of over 400, plus around 50 media members from around the world, packed a conference center in Johnston to hear the new GOP frontrunner. The event raised over $30,000.
“We were really tickled,” said Polk GOP Co-Chair Dave Funk. “We had to turn people away at the door because there was no more room.” He and other organizers had to stand during the event to make room for attendees.
The former House Speaker did not disappoint the capacity crowd. It was standard Gingrich stump speech fare, mixing historical lessons and anecdotes with a strong focus on our founding documents, bold plans for the future and plenty of criticism of Barack Obama. That formula has been a hit in debates and on the campaign trail.
He also stressed the need for teamwork and used language more suited for a general election campaign than a Republican primary. “We need to be open to an American campaign, not a Republican campaign, and be open to every person of every background,” Gingrich said, meeting with approval from the crowd.
“I thought the speech was excellent,” said attendee Darlene Decklever of Ankeny. “I thought he had a lot of very interesting points and we do need to change. I loved how he said that we need to learn to develop a work ethic and people need to start at the bottom. We have not taught our young people to learn how to work.”
Gingrich is catching some flak for his statements about putting poor children to work, but no one in the crowd of over 400 seemed to mind. They applauded several times throughout the speech.
It was Gingrich’s final statements that brought the house down. As he has stated before, if he wins the GOP nomination, Gingrich wants to challenge President Obama to seven Lincoln-Douglas style debates. He joked that Obama can bring a teleprompter.
In case Obama does not accept that challenge, Gingrich has a backup plan. “The White House will be my scheduler and wherever the President goes, I will show up four hours later and respond to his speech.”
The thought of the professorial Gingrich challenge Obama directly has Republicans salivating. The entire crowd rose to its feet with cheers and applause to the new GOP frontrunner’s comment. It’s rare that a presidential candidate’s comment earns a standing ovation. Newt Gingrich made a major impact on this crowd.
“Newt makes sense,” said Pat Knueven of Urbandale. “He says it like it is and he says what needs to be done, which we’re not hearing today from the current administration. Newt knows what needs to be done and he knows how to do it.”
Conservative activist Kathy Carley agrees. “I loved his speech. I think Newt’s brilliant. Out of all of the candidates, Newt Gingrich loves our country and will fight to do our country right.”
Gingrich rose to the front of the GOP pack by sounding like the smartest person in the room. Speeches like the one he gave Thursday night could keep him there. The response was overwhelmingly positive and with just one month remaining until the Iowa Caucus, Republicans are flocking to Gingrich in droves. He likely secured several more votes with this appearance. Newt Gingrich is on a roll.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
- · Live Blog: Polk GOP Dinner with Newt Gingrich (theiowarepublican.com)
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