Newt Gingrich signs autographs while visiting his Polk County campaign… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)
Reporting from Lakeland, Fla. —
Newt Gingrich, rallying volunteers at a phone bank as voters headed to the polls Tuesday, said he has a clear path to the GOP nomination despite rival Mitt Romney's financial, polling and organizational advantages in the race.
"We unify the conservatives. Romney's not going to get anywhere near the majority here," he said, talking to reporters before entering his Polk County campaign office. "You unify the conservatives, you win the delegates, and you have the nomination."
Gingrich, who came into Florida last week with a surge of momentum from his surprise South Carolina win, acknowledged that his campaign has suffered from the barrage of negative advertising by Romney and his supporters.
"When you're outspent 5 to 1 with ads that are dishonest … it's a challenge," he said.
But he rejected predictions that his campaign was over if he loses Florida.
"Why would I drop out?" he said. "The last three national polls, I beat Romney."
Gingrich was accompanied by Michael Reagan, the son of the late president who has endorsed Gingrich. Reagan, whose father famously said the 11th commandment ought to be that Republicans not savage each other, said his father would have liked to see a more positive campaign. But he said that's not practical in modern campaigns.
"I joke with people; I say there's now a 12th commandment: Forget about the 11th commandment; let's get it on," he said.
Gingrich greeted volunteers making phone calls urging supporters to turn out, part of the more than 100,000 calls that his backers have made in the last 48 hours.
A man said, "You're going to win!"
Gingrich replied, "Get them all to turn out."
A woman told Gingrich's wife, Callista, that she was praying for her.
"We appreciate those prayers very very much," Callista Gingrich said.
Supporters also turned out to greet the former House speaker.
Marilyn Butler, 70, told him that she had already voted for him.
"I think he's the most conservative," said the retired computer specialist. "I hope that he'll win. I'm rooting for him and if he does it here, I think he's got a chance to go all the way. I don't want him to give up and I don't want him to stop."
She said Gingrich was the best GOP candidate to take on President Obama.
"He's not scared, he's very bold and he will make changes," she said.
But others showed up for the spectacle of seeing a presidential candidate.
Ann Carchedi, 83, already voted for Romney.
"He knows how to run a business. Maybe he can do the same thing for our country," she said. "I don't think [Gingrich] should be running. I think he has too much baggage."