Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign rally alongside his wife, Callista,… (Marc Piscotty / Getty Images )
Reporting from Golden, Colo. —
Newt Gingrich waited until the day before Colorado's Republican presidential contest to start campaigning here, and -- as if to make up for lost time -- took the guns-blazing approach upon arrival.
The former House speaker opened a rally here in this Denver suburb on Monday with an assault on Mitt Romney, closed it with a racially tinged attack on President Obama's economic policies and, in between, went after the "elite media" for good measure.
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney "basically accommodated liberal Democrats" with judicial appointments and his healthcare overhaul, Gingrich told a couple of hundred supporters at a hotel.
"He's not a bad person, per se," Gingrich said. "But he's also not a person who goes in there with force and fundamentally changes things. And we're in a situation in which we need fundamental change."
Gingrich moved on to President Obama, saying Egypt's plan to put 19 Americans working for pro-democracy groups on criminal trial reminded him of President Carter and Iran in 1979. "We now have the Obama hostage crisis to resemble the Carter hostage crisis," he said.
"Take the 1.3 billion back," a man called from the crowd, apparently referring to U.S. foreign aid to Egypt.
"I'd do a lot more than that," the candidate responded.
Gingrich called Egypt's government "the latest product of Obama's belief in an 'Arab spring'" and denounced Muslim radicals who have sought power after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. "This is like the 1930s," Gingrich said. "I mean this is a mindless capitulation to forces that are contrary to our entire civilization."
Returning to Romney, Gingrich said Republicans had lost the presidential elections of 1976, 1996 and 2008 after nominating moderates. "The elite media would love to talk us into nominating another moderate," he said. "And you want to understand the elite media bias, just remember their No. 1 interest is to reelect Barack Obama, and they believe by getting a moderate to be the Republican nominee, they guarantee the election of Barack Obama."
Rick Santorum, who is vying with Gingrich to emerge as the lone conservative alternative to Romney, has made the same argument about the risk of nominating a moderate. The former Pennsylvania senator is hoping that a strong showing in the Colorado caucuses -- and in contests that also occur Tuesday in Minnesota and Missouri -- will give his candidacy new credibility after a string of primary losses. Gingrich failed to get his name on the Missouri ballot, and his prospects in Colorado and Minnesota appear to be mediocre.
At the rally in Golden, Gingrich also renewed his criticism of Romney for saying last week that he was not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. "I want to suggest to you that this is exactly backwards," he said.
Gingrich went on to say he wanted "to convert the safety net into a springboard" for job opportunities, which opened the way to his final attack, on Obama.
"Barack Obama is the most successful food stamp president in American history," he said, describing the president as responsible for making more people dependent on government handouts.
"Look, when you have 43% African American teenage unemployment, this is a social catastrophe," Gingrich said. "These are young people being denied the opportunity to learn the habits of work, so we have to rethink from the ground up. I do not want to turn and say, 'Oh, I'm not going to worry about the poor, they have a safety net.' That safety net is dependence. It is a banal lack of a life of excitement."
If he wins the Republican nomination, Gingrich said, "we will run an American campaign." The crowd applauded.
"I believe we can go into every neighborhood of every ethnic background, in every state in this country," he said. "We're going to say, 'Look, if you prefer a paycheck to food stamps, come join us. We want to make sure you have a chance to work and not just be dependent.'"
Gingrich said he would seek support from those who prefer the Declaration of Independence -- and its principle that God endowed men with inalienable rights -- to the "radicalism of Saul Alinsky," an author who championed community organizing, a former occupation of Obama's.
"I believe we can create an American campaign of enormous proportions," Gingrich said.