RENO — Fresh off his crushing defeat in the Florida primary, an upbeat Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich enthralled about 200 cheering supporters today , calling for repealing “Obamacare” and promising as president to never bow to a Saudi king.
Unlike some recent speeches, he did not speak entirely negatively about his chief opponent, Mitt Romney, instead calling all his challengers “my friends” who just have a different perspective on how to improve America.
Gingrich said he was not surprised by his defeat in Florida because he was outspent 5-to-1 by Romney.
“We are going to pit people power against money power in this campaign,” Gingrich said. “Governor Romney cannot continue to outspend us 5-to-1.”
More than 160,000 people have contributed to his campaign, and 97 percent gave less than $250, he said.
He also said he wants to create jobs for all Americans and is concerned about the poor as well as the rich.
“I’m fed up with politicians of either party dividing Americans against each other. I’m concerned about all American people,” Gingrich said. “My goal is to take steps so every American can find a job.”
He drew loud cheers when he said he would dismantle the existing unemployment compensation system, which now allows some unemployed people to receive benefits for 99 weeks.
“We never again will pay somebody for 99 weeks for doing nothing,” Gingrich said. “In that time they could have earned an associate degree.”
He spoke for 25 minutes in the crowded Great Basin Brewery restaurant. He arrived at the restaurant 70 minutes late.
At one point, when the sound system wasn’t working properly and Gingrich was working to fix a microphone, one patron said, “That’s all right, we’re all drunk here.”
About 200 other Gingrich supporters gathered outside next to Gingrich’s bus; they were unable to fit inside the restaurant. Gingrich spent time signing autographs and taking pictures with them.
A campaign spokesman said the Reno event would be his only campaign event for the day in Nevada. He planned to fly to Las Vegas later today. Gingrich earlier had canceled a meeting in Carson City with Gov. Brian Sandoval. No reason was given.
During much of his speech, he discussed familiar themes, such as his plan to issue an executive order to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and promising to dismantle 40 percent of President Barack Obama’s government by the time the “defeated” president returns to Chicago.
Twice during the speech, he referred to Obama as “dumb.” Gingrich said the president made an “amazing dumb decision” in deciding to postpone until at least 2013 a decision to build the Keystone Pipeline to move oil from Canada to refineries in the United States. He vowed to issue an executive order on his first day in office authorizing the pipeline.
“You (Canada) won’t need a Chinese partner because Obama is so dumb,” Gingrich said.
He also accused Obama of “declaring war on the Catholic Church” and pledged to “repeal every anti-religious action of the Obama administration.” That criticism was in response to Obama’s decision to require many employers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, even those from religious organizations, to offer their female workers birth control insurance coverage.
Supporters at the brewery praised Gingrich for talking straight to the voters.
“He speaks his mind,” said 65-year-old Sandy Caldwell of Reno. “So many politicians try to be politically correct.”
“He is fearless,” said Teddie Fabian, a Reno woman who declined to give her age. “Newt will do well in Nevada because Nevada likes straight-talkers.”
Almost everyone in the crowd was middle-aged or older. Many like Gingrich, 68, had white hair. His wife, Callista, famed for her white hair, did not accompany him to Reno.
Kim Bacchus, the Washoe County coordinator for the Gingrich campaign, apologized for scheduling the event at a location that quickly became overcrowded. But she noted she only had 20 hours to find a place for the candidate’s speech and the turnout should be an indication of his popularity.
Bacchus said Gingrich has “big ideas,” but that a president needs big ideas since Americans must move ahead and excel.
“I believe he has an excellent chance of winning Nevada,” she added.
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