Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has faced a barrage of negative ads, robocalls, and direct-mail pieces from his opponents in recent days, particularly from Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. But the former House speaker is standing up for himself in the ground game leading up to the Iowa caucuses, Politico
During four campaign stops Wednesday, Gingrich expressed a desire to confront concerns about his record head on. He truncated his speeches and spent more time answering questions. “I want people to feel very free to talk to me and find out what the truth is,” Gingrich said during his daily telephone town hall.
Gingrich emphasized that he still intends to conduct a positive campaign and will criticize former Massachusetts Gov. Romney and Texas Rep. Paul only when asked direct questions about them. “You can fight in a positive way,” he told reporters.
In Spencer, Iowa, Gingrich cited his work in helping Republicans seize control of the House in the 1994 election. “When we won, after 40 years, it was an enormous shock to the Democrats. They decided to attack me. They ran 121,000 negative commercials over the course of the year.”
At a visit to a chocolate shop in Algona, Gingrich took it to Romney for comparing Gingrich’s failure to make it on the Virginia ballot to an “I Love Lucy” episode that takes place in a chocolate factory.
“I just want to say: Here I am in the chocolate factory,” Gingrich said, reiterating his proposal to debate Romney one on one. Gingrich said he would make a superior nominee to Romney because he could fire up the party’s conservative base.
One questioner challenged Gingrich on his budget-balancing act, saying he raided the Social Security trust fund, boosting the government’s debt burden to balance the budget.
“By the standards that had been set up in the unified budget process, it was clearly balanced,” Gingrich responded.
“We were playing under the budget rules that existed at the time. However you want to score it,” Gingrich said he did better than anyone else “in your lifetime.”
Another person queried Gingrich about his immigration ideas. “Some people have been grotesquely exaggerating” his plan for a local citizen review board, which would determine whether to offer legal residency based on whether the person is “a good member of the community.”
At one of his town halls, the candidate was asked whom he would appoint to his Cabinet. Gingrich cited Steve Forbes as “the kind of person you might look at to be secretary of the Treasury,” even though the magazine publisher is backing Rick Perry.
Corey Resch, who buys hogs for Hormel, saw many of the attack ads, which he said made him want to see Gingrich in person and judge for himself. “I don’t know if they’re all true, so I thought I’d come down and see,” Resch told Politico. He was impressed with what he saw and said that he probably will caucus for Gingrich.
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