Newt Gingrich is likely the first presidential candidate in history to spend a significant amount of time discussing brain science during a stump speech. Gingrich’s visit to Davenport on Monday evolved into a biology class, but the crowd remained attentive throughout. The former U.S. House speaker believes brain science is one of the keys to America’s future, not just for medical reasons, but also for economic ones.
A captive audience of 150 Quad Cities natives packed into the auditorium at the Frigge Art Museum to listen to the professorial presidential prospect. He was greeted with standing ovations at the beginning and end of the event, as well as applauded an estimated two dozen times in between.
Gingrich’s speech was part stump speech, part history lesson, part science class and part call to action. “If we’re going to shrink the Washington bureaucracy, we have to grow citizens,” he said. “We have to be bigger and more responsible.”
Gingrich later encouraged the crowd to be “with me, not for me” and explained that no one person can fundamentally change America into what conservatives want it to become. “There has to be a citizen’s movement,” Gingrich said. “This will not work without citizens who are willing to do it.” He added that the movement includes every level of government, from the presidential race to the county supervisor and city council levels.
Late in his speech, Gingrich asked the how many people in the crowd know someone who is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease in their family. Most of the audience raised their hand. He ticked through a list of diseases like Parkinson’s, autism and depression, receiving a similar response each time from the crowd.
Gingrich then spent several minutes explaining how the country must focus on funding brain science research to find cures. “From now to 2050, the estimated cost for Alzheimer’s disease in this country is 20 trillion dollars,” he explained to the stunned crowd.
Gingrich believes advances in science can change that, but America needs bold leadership to push it through. That is one of the proposals he lays out in his 21st Century Contract with America. “You want to fix Medicare in the long run, no single thing fixes it better than brain science. You want to fix Medicaid in the long run, nothing fixes it better than brain science,” Gingrich said.
His speech impressed several attendees. “I think Newt is the most intelligent person running,” said State Central Committee member John Ortega, who is remaining neutral in race. “I can’t understand where people say he’s not electable. He always amazes me when I hear him.”
Gina Frenell, a healthcare professional, was appreciative of Gingrich’s words related to her field. “I was pleasantly surprised with the specificity in his plans. I like that he offers a choice in his tax proposal, and as someone who works in health care, I really liked what he had to say about brain science.”
During the Question and Answer session, Gingrich was asked about his presidential prospects. “I think I have a real challenge in getting the nomination,” he said. “I’m actually pretty cheerful about the general election.”
Gingrich says he will not be able to compete with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry financially, so winning the Iowa Caucus might not be possible. However, the former U.S. House speaker believes at top three finish is possible.
Lynda Byard, a local Tea Party member, said Gingrich won her over with this appearance, but she worries about his chances. “I thought he was outstanding. He’s grounded and practical. There’s nothing he said that I don’t agree with. I would love to see him debate Obama. I just don’t know how we can get him enough support to get there.”
Gingrich has campaigned infrequently in Iowa and never recovered from early stumbles and massive staff departures. However, the former Georgia congressman appears to be ramping up his efforts with the Iowa Caucus looming in just over two months. Sources tell TheIowaRepublican.com that the campaign is working on hiring Iowa staffers.
Gingrich said he hopes to open three offices in the state and promised a heavier schedule. “We’re going to be here a lot in the next few weeks campaigning, and all through November and December,” he said.
Gingrich poked fun at the bickering between Romney and Perry in last week’s debate, saying he “literally felt the other night that I was the recess monitor, watching these two kids.” Meanwhile, Gingrich has shined in every presidential debate, as well as in Saturday’s Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition forum.
He told the crowd he could win the race easily if there was a debate every night. He is probably right. More appearances like Monday’s in Davenport would also boost his chances. It was difficult for anyone to walk away from that event without being impressed with Newt’s vast knowledge and his detailed solutions.
Photo courtesy of Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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