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Iowans say Gingrich follies this week do not doom candidacy

WATERLOO — Harsh words uttered in Waterloo during former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich‘s initial visit to Black Hawk County as a 2012 GOP candidate for president were reserved for the Democratic National Committee and President Barack Obama.

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/886b9f0738ll_325.jpg.jpg Gingrich met with former Black Hawk County GOP Chairman Russ Knoll following a public speech before about 100 Iowans in Waterloo. (Photo: Lynda Waddington/The Iowa Independent)

“Newt’s a politician,” explained Russ Knoll, a former Black Hawk County Republican chairman. “Most of what he said was taken out of context — he got set-up.”

Knoll was discussing Gingrich’s appearance on “Meet the Press” when Gingrich told host David Gregory that the House Republican plan to overhaul Medicare, authored by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), was “radical,” and ignited a firestorm of controversy within his own party.

“I don’t think right-win social engineering is any more desirable than left-win social engineering,” Gingrich said on the NBC show. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

The following day, Ryan responded, “With allies like that, who needs the left?”

Gingrich has since attempted to walk back the comments, and has personally phoned Ryan to apologize for the controversy that resulted.

“He should know better. He really should. He’s been around a long time,” said Knoll.

“When he gets set-up like that, he’s going to pay a price for it. But, in the long-term, I don’t see it having any effect at all [on Newt's chances to claim the GOP 2012 nomination or to compete in Iowa].”

Joan Day, a Waterloo Republican who came to hear what Gingrich had to say, also believes the controversy will be short-lived.

“You know, I didn’t even hear about it,” she told The Iowa Independent after the event, while waiting on an opportunity to have a private word with Gingrich. “I mostly watch CNN, Fox and local news stations. So I’m usually pretty up to speed, but I didn’t catch that.”

Former U.S. Rep. Dave Nagle, a Democrat who has a private legal practice in Waterloo, was also in the audience to hear Gingrich’s remarks. The two had served together, Nagle explained to The Iowa Independent, and he “hopes to hear them all speak” in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses.

“These people are running for President of the United States,” Nagle said. “So why in the hell wouldn’t you walk across the street to listen to them?”

The reaction to the comments made by Gingrich, he said, was blown out of proportion.

“No. It isn’t justified. I don’t think so,” said Nagle.

“I think the problem that you run into is that there are those journalists who want to announce the results of the election today. So, they seize on any incident, any misstep by a candidate as a defining moment, therefore deciding who will not be the nominee. You know, we still have a long way to go, and he (Gingrich) needs to remember that Iowa is a long-distance race. I don’t think [the reaction] was fair to him, and I hardly think it was a defining moment.”

Although neither Day or Knoll are ready to place their support behind a single GOP candidate for 2012, both said they are currently leaning toward supporting Gingrich — and both for the same reason.

“He brought up some of his points, but what I remain impressed with is his knowledge of history, how to implement things and how to change our government and country back to the way it should be,” Day said. “He speaks like I think — we are the government.”

Knoll says he has “always liked Newt” and that the two “go back a long time.”

“His knowledge of American history, and what our country was really founded upon, needs to be applied to our government today,” Knoll said. “That’s what we are missing. That’s why we are getting in so much trouble — because we aren’t doing what our founding fathers had in mind. So, I think he can get it done and get it applied. I think he has the knowledge to do that.”

As for Gingrich himself, he acknowledged to Iowans attending his whistle stops that his first week as a candidate hasn’t been everything he expected it to be, but also that he expects to fully overcome the rocky start. But he also forcefully denounced a new web ad created by the Democratic National Committee that documents the dust-up.

“The ad this morning is despicable. The President should withdraw it. He should be ashamed of the work of the national committee that he controls,” Gingrich told members of the press following his public remarks. During public remarks, Gingrich again called Obama “the food stamp president” and upped the ante by referring to the President as an “amateur” while touting his own experience in politics.

Gingrich also appears to have a good understanding of the fact that what makes for political buzz in Washington, D.C. isn’t necessarily what drives political discussion in Iowa. He encouraged supporters to show their approval of his candidacy in an upcoming video so that they can “convince the Washington news media the voters will decide the election.”

Here’s the web ad developed by the DNC:

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