(Joe Raedle/Getty Images )
Reporting from Walterboro, S.C. — Newt Gingrich effusively praised Rick Perry, his one-time rival for the GOP presidential nomination who dropped out earlier Thursday and endorsed the former House speaker.
In Perry’s announcement, “he talked about the mission. I think this is really important. People can run or not run, people might end up being president or not being president, but there is a mission as a citizen that’s really an important part of being an American,” Gingrich said. “And I really was grateful that Rick Perry emphasized that his mission is not going to change, that he is still committed to helping his country every way he can.”
He said he spoke with Perry on Thursday morning, and asked the Texas governor to lead an effort to draft states’ rights legislation that Gingrich would try to pass within 90 of being inaugurated.
It’s a whirlwind time for the candidate, who is surging in South Carolina but is facing a critical day. Thursday evening, he will face off against the remaining contenders in the GOP race, and then ABC news will air an interview with his second wife, Marianne, who reportedly says that Gingrich asked her for an "open marriage" after she learned that he was having an affair with Callista Bisek, who is Gingrich’s current wife.
Gingrich dismissed reporters’ questions about the interview earlier Thursday, but he seemed to allude to it during a speech to supporters here, when he said he, his wife and his two daughters had deep discussions about whether he should run for president.
“We spent almost a year talking about this because we knew there would be days that would be miserable. We knew we would have attack ads, we knew the news media would be as destructive as they could be and so we had to raise the question, ‘Do you really want to go through that?' " Gingrich said. “But we also thought about [grandchildren] Robert and Maggie and we thought about the other young people who are here today, and we thought, 'You know, if we don’t get a leader who actually knows what he’s doing, we’re in deep trouble.' We could end up with China passing us as the leading country in the world. That would be bad.”
Gingrich, accompanied by his wife, three siblings, one of his daughters and grandson, made his remarks from the flatbed of a trailer on sprawling hunting grounds in the Lowcountry. More than 100 people, many of them hunters, gathered at wooden picnic tables in a shed to eat BBQ, coleslaw and white bread slices and listen to Gingrich speak.
Noting that his brother is an avid hunter and his grandson received a .410 single-shot shotgun for Christmas, Gingrich told the crowd that sportsmen are true environmentalists, a point that “liberals don’t get.”
“People who hunt and fish are among out most passionate conservationists because they’re actually out in the woods, and on the trails, and in the streams and in the swamps, and they understand that if we don’t have areas that are healthy, there is no hunting and fishing,” he said.
“But the big difference is this – the intellectual left-wing environmentalists have a theoretical model in which humans are not part of the world," he said.
Otherwise it was a regular day on the stump. Gingrich urged voters to turn out for him Saturday, saying that if he can win the primary, he will be the GOP nominee. He spoke of American exceptionalism and the nation’s founding. He criticized front-runner Mitt Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate” who was too similar to President Obama, and said a second term for Obama would be a “disaster.”
“This is the most important election of our lifetime,” he said.