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Gingrich banking on Iowa win to become front-runner

AMES — Former U.S. House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says Iowa is vital to his campaign, and thinks if he does well in the state he’ll earn the right to challenge President Barack Obama.

Gingrich told a crowd of about 100 people at Iowa State University that he’s not raising as much money as some presidential candidates, but he thinks he can overcome that if he hangs in the race long enough.

“I don’t have the kind of money that Perry and Romney have,” Gingrich said. “I’m not going to be able to go out and campaign in a state the size of California right now. But if I come in first or second in Iowa and can go on to New Hampshire and come in first or second and then get to South Carolina, I think I will be the nominee.”

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/newt_gingrich_ames_350.jpgFormer U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich believes if he works hard he can become the GOP presidential nominee, win the general election and make his 21st Century Contract with America a reality. (Photo: Andrew Duffelmeyer/The Iowa Independent)

At that point campaign funds won’t matter as much, Gingrich said, because he’ll be able to harness more earned media. He said that was evident in 2008, when John McCain was able to win the Florida primary despite being outspent 10-to-1.

“I think at that stage you have so much earned media that the value of the money you raise is dramatically less relevant,” Gingrich said.

Campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said the caucuses can be a catapult for Gingrich.

“If you do well in Iowa the nation starts to pay attention,” Hammond said. “Iowa is responding very well to Newt’s contact, the idea of putting big ideas out there because we understand the country is in trouble.”

Hammond said the campaign plans to open offices in Iowa in mid-October, and it already has volunteers organizing in their towns.

“We’re going to run a very aggressive ground-game here going into Christmas and whether the caucus is held Christmas morning or

Thanksgiving afternoon we’re going to be ready,” he said.

Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University, said Gingrich has been doing better in polls and could

step up further due to recent missteps from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty and people really are looking again and still looking,” Schmidt said. “Probably Newt Gingrich is one of the ones that they’re looking at more than when the campaign started, when he had a little rough time getting started.”

Schmidt said even if Gingrich comes in second or third in the caucuses that would give him a boost heading into New Hampshire.

“Then he’s from Georgia so he’ll probably do well in South Carolina,” Schmidt said. “If the money keeps rolling in he can certainly go a little longer. I think probably he will go beyond Iowa.”

Gingrich was in Ames today to speak at the Iowa State University Presidential Caucus Series. He spent much of his hour-long remarks outlining his plans for jump-starting the nation’s science and technology sectors.

But he also took time to outline his recently-unveiled “21st Century Contract with America,” which includes legislative proposals such as repealing so-called Obamacare, cutting taxes and regulations, and restructuring Medicare and Social Security.

Gingrich said different thinking is necessary to overcome the nation’s challenges, and people in Washington, D.C. may view his proposals as a fantasy.

“I am asking you to be with me not just through the primary, the caucus, not just through the election, but through the eight years of actually implementing this,” he said. “It’s a huge assignment.”

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