By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gingrich looks to Ga. to fuel comeback
Placeholder Image

Moments after he addressed a Gainesville crowd Wednesday evening, Newt Gingrich got word of a headline on a news website that he, like "Lazarus," might be rising again.

The headline linked to a blog post about a 2-point jump Gingrich got in a Gallup poll for the Republican presidential race released earlier in the day as he focused on his plans for energy independence.

The former U.S. House speaker has for weeks trailed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the polls and in the number of delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination.

He has been touring the state for much of this week, looking for support from what used to be his fellow
Georgians in hopes of a much-needed primary victory on Tuesday.

Gingrich taught college courses and served for two decades in Congress. It's one place he might feel most comfortable.

"People know that I really have always been part of Georgia," Gingrich said in an interview with The Times following his address at the Civic Center.

Gingrich left his congressional seat in 1999, and hasn't called Georgia home for quite some time.

But he said support from people like Gov. Nathan Deal, who served alongside him in Congress, earns him credibility with the current generation of Georgians.

Deal appeared with Gingrich in events in Gainesville and Covington on Wednesday.

While in Gainesville, Gingrich's ideas centered around a promise to get fuel prices below $2.50 a gallon if elected, even using Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic and businessman Philip Wilheit to promote the plan.

Standing outside Wilheit Packaging, where Gingrich and his wife, Callista, took a tour in the afternoon, Cronic told the flock of reporters standing beside Gingrich's campaign bus that such a plan would mean a lot for his agency's budget.

"If we could get gas somehow back to the $2.50 range, it would save us at least $100,000 to $150,000 in our budget annually, which means there would be more money for things like bulletproof vests," Cronic said.

Wilheit, too, said fuel costs for his company's 50 trucks were $89,000 higher this year over 2011, despite sales revenues remaining the same.

"We've got several pieces of equipment we'd like to buy now, and we'd put that on new equipment and new employees if I could save that kind of money on fuel," Wilheit said.

After visiting Wilheit's plant, Gingrich spent nearly a half hour shaking hands after the Civic Center rally.

In speaking with The Times, he reiterated a call for reforming the federal guest worker program to provide farmers with a legal source of immigrant labor.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black also has called on federal lawmakers to update the program and expand eligibility.

Gingrich said the program needs to be "effective."

"I would outsource it to American Express, Visa or MasterCard, because they know how to run programs without fraud," he said.

Georgia is what Gingrich calls a "must carry state," meaning he needs a win here to move on in the race.
"I have an obligation to prove I can do well," Gingrich said.

But aside from a win in Georgia, Gingrich said he's also looking to do well in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Ohio among the 10 states holding contests on Super Tuesday.

Gingrich also said he feels confident he'll "win decisively" in two other Deep South states, Alabama and Mississippi, the following week, and take Texas in April.

"I think we will be a viable candidate all the way to Tampa," he said, referring to the site of the GOP Convention Aug. 27-30.

Gingrich laughed when asked about the Lazarus reference.
"Every once in a while, Callista and I look at each other and think ‘I mean, how many times can we rebound?'" Gingrich said.

He'll likely know in the next two weeks.