"We are going to want to find some way to deal with the people who are here, to distinguish between those who have no natural ties to the United States — and therefore you could deport them at minimum human cost — and those who in fact may have earned the right to become legal but not citizens," he said, running counter to existing GOP policy.
Political experts said appeals to early-state voters are vital, especially given the gale of criticism that has buffeted Gingrich.
"Even if he does a few interviews where he comes off as a loose cannon in the national media, for Iowa voters, the key will be that he still has small group meetings and is out shaking hands," said Christopher Larimer, a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa.
It made the difference for Marcia Ziel, a 70-year-old Marshalltown resident who went to see Gingrich at the local library. She walked into the event concerned about Gingrich's gaffes, yet emerged committed to him.
"He has the knowledge; he's had the experience; his ideas are right on," Ziel said.
Mac Peterson, 71, was hesitant about Gingrich — and more likely to side with another candidate — after attending the brewery event.