WILTON, Iowa - Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich found himself looking both forward and backward Friday night during a fundraiser for State Rep. Jeff Kaufmann.
Looking backward, Gingrich - a Georgia Republican who was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995-99 - shared with the crowd of about 170 people at the Wilton Community Center the tenor of the emails he received after his put-down of the questioning by Fox News' Chris Wallace during Thursday's nationally televised GOP debate from Ames.
"People thanked me," Gingrich said to a Wilton crowd that gave him three standing ovations, "for not talking politics as usual."
At the same time, candidate Gingrich was looking forward to today's straw poll, where "I don't ask people to be for me. I ask them to be with me.
"If we win," he said, "it's going to be an eight-year project" to rebuild the nation's economy, rebuild the pride in what he called "American exceptionalism," and deal effectively with terrorists and others who would harm or kill Americans.
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Gingrich drew a chuckle when he recounted his experience earlier Friday speaking at the Des Moines Register's soapbox at the Iowa State Fair. Democrats in the crowd who were assigned to heckle him, he said, were "so busy listening to my speech about how to fix the country's problems that they forgot to heckle."
Gingrich cited 1932 - the year Americans elected Franklin D. Roosevelt to the first of four terms in the White House - as the year "we added a layer of bureaucratic socialism" to the fabric of individual individual rights spelled out by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
"If you live in Wilton, you have to live with the regulations created by people who have never been here," Gingrich said.
Citing the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the states are reserved to the states or the people - Gingrich invited the crowd to "imagine the transfer of power back home" under his presidency.
"You are going to have to fill the vacuum that transfer of power will create," he said.
Gingrich said three important discussions have emerged during the campaign, issues that he believes will also dominate the debate between President Barack Obama and the GOP nominee:
n How to create enough jobs to get the economy moving, which Gingrich said he would do by cutting taxes and business regulations, creating a new energy plan and "praising the people who create jobs."
n Winning what Gingrich called "a head-on cultural fight about the nature of America."
The tip of the Washington Monument has the words "Glory to God" inscribed in Latin, "the first thing that sunlight hits in Washington each morning," Gingrich said.
President Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address is 703 words long and it contains 14 references to God.
Most Americans know neither of those facts.
"There's a conscious effort by the Left to not teach American history," he said. "Our Founding Fathers really were different than the current system."
n Winning "the fundamental argument about the nature of what threatens us."
Gingrich said he recently spoke with retired Gen. John Abizaid, the only four-star general he knows who speaks Arabic fluently. The general told Gingrich the nation doesn't suffer so much from an economic deficit as it does a strategy deficit.
"This is the most important election since 1860," said Gingrich, a former history professor.
"If we defeat the Left, we are going to have a Great Britain-style reaction" of disappointed people rioting in the streets, he predicted.
But "virtually everybody in this room believes that you're responsible for your life," he said. "We can once again be the country your parents and your grandparents fought for."
Afterward, Dawn Smith, 45, the mayor of Durant, said she appreciated what Gingrich had to say but had not made up her mind which candidate will receive her vote today at the straw poll.
"I really think Mr. Gingrich would make a good nominee," she said. "He can hold the tea party and the rest of the Republicans together."
Kaufmann, the assistant majority leader in the Iowa House of Representatives, said Friday's fundraiser will probably raise the targeted he envisioned for the event, $25,000.