Newt Gingrich addresses the media following a campaign event in Orangeburg,… (Matt Roarke / Associated…)
Reporting from Orangeburg, S.C. — Newt Gingrich, feeling his surge in the polls a day before this state holds a crucial primary, told supporters on Friday that if they convince conservatives to support him at the polls, he would clinch the nomination and would be able to take on President Obama as a true conservative.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a very, very important day,” Gingrich told several hundred supporters spilling out of a meeting room at a shopping center. “With your help and with the help of other good citizens across the state of South Carolina, we are going to take the first big step towards insuring that a conservative is nominated for president of the United States.”
He made these remarks at a critical time in his candidacy, less than 24 hours before South Carolina voters head to the poll amid signs of a tight race between himself and Mitt Romney. The latter has been the front-runner, but polling shows Gingrich surging, with some predicting he could win the first primary in the South.
While he frequently mentions Romney by name on the stump, on Friday, he didn’t, instead referring to the former Massachusetts governor only as a “Massachusetts moderate” twice. Instead, he aimed his fire most forcefully at Obama.
“We don’t have a problem with the American people. We have a problem with government and that problem is accentuated by the most radical and may I say most incompetent president we have had in our lifetime,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said he was running to upend the status quo in Washington because of his grandchildren.
“If we don’t profusely change things, they’re going to inherit a country that’s weaker, more vulnerable, less free, with huge burdens,” he said. “We decided that was just wrong. When we decided to run, we knew there would be negative attack ads. We knew the elite media would attack us. We knew the closer we came to winning, the more ferocious it would get.
“I’m not running to preside over the decay of being a normal establishment Republican,” he said. “I am running to fundamentally change the . . . structure of power in Washington, D.C., to move this country to the Constitution, back to the Declaration of Independence, back to the principles that made America” great.
He ended with a plea.
“Please, in the next few hours, tell your friends and neighbors. If we get every conservative to decide Newt Gingrich is the right person to stop a Massachusetts moderate, we will win by a surprising margin, and that’s going to set the stage for us winning the nomination,” he said. “That will set the stage for debates with Obama. And the debates with Obama will be something we’ll build parties around. It will be fun. People can enjoy it. That will enable us to win the presidency, and then we’ll get this country back on the right track.”