Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came to Minnesota Monday, on the verge of tonight’s caucuses, with the message that he’s got the bold ideas needed to turn the country around, even if it will be hard for Washington and the Republican establishment to adjust.
Several hundred supporters at the Ramada Mall of America hotel in Bloomington also liked his idea for colonizing the moon.
There was extra security on hand; at Gingrich’s last visit to Minnesota for a book signing, he was glitter-bombed and the Bloomington police officers and Hennepin County deputies weren’t going to let that happen again. It didn’t. (But Ron Paul was glitter-bombed at his Monday rally at the Minneapolis Convention Center.)
A gay-rights heckler was quickly removed from the room, but it didn’t seem to disrupt the candidate’s speech.
In a 35-minute talk, Gingrich said Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s proposals for the country are “timid,” and not all that different from President Obama’s policies.
Big bold ideas, Gingrich-style ideas, are what’s needed, he said.
“If we get our act together, we’re going to have a terrific third century. But it’s going to involve very dramatic changes,” he said.
“The truth is very hard for the Republican establishment to understand — that you cannot stop the decay without very serious political conflict in Washington,” he said.
He called the the moon colony idea, which he proposed at a meeting of space scientists in Florida last month, a good plan that can capture the imagination of Americans, just like the original space race in the 1960s. And it could lead to new advances in science and technology, like the man-on-the-moon effort.
“We need bold solutions, and we need the courage to go out and even risk ‘Saturday Night Live’ making fun of us.”
Someday, he said, “I want to see ‘Saturday Night Live’ broadcast from the moon.”
Some in Monday’s crowd had come to size up Gingrich prior to the caucus.
“I wanted to learn more about him,” said Elliot Stokes of St. Paul. “I like what he said about more energy production in the United States, a stronger foreign policy and improving the economy.”
But Tim Anderson of Minneapolis had already made up his mind before the speech; he’ll support Gingrich in his caucus.
“Privatizing and incentivizing space is a great idea,” Anderson said. He thinks Gingrich is the only candidate with a chance of balancing the national budget.
“I’m scared of Romney. I think he’s a RINO, a Republican in name only, and won’t do anything to balance the budget,” Anderson said.
I also talked a bit with one man, who said he’d come to evaluate Gingrich, and actually liked some of the things he heard, particularly about cleaning up the mess in Washington.
I asked if he’d support Gingrich at a caucus. Well, he said, he would be at a caucus, but not for Gingrich.
“I’m a Democrat,” he said.
That’s interesting, I said. Checking out the opposition. But he wouldn’t give me his name, saying it would create a conflict with some Republican relatives.