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Gingrich warns of Iran problems

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and wife, Callista, visit Hawthorn Hill, the home of pioneer of flight Orville Wright, Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and wife, Callista, visit Hawthorn Hill, the home of pioneer of flight Orville Wright, Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Newt Gingrich kept a stiff upper lip Wednesday after his poor showing in GOP presidential caucuses the night before, but issued dire warnings about Iran's potential nuclear capabilities.

In his only scheduled public appearance for the next two days, the former House speaker made no mention of his poor showing in Colorado and Minnesota. But he told a small crowd of manufacturing workers that the United States could pay a terrible price if Iran develops nuclear weapons.

"You think about the dangers, to Cleveland, or to Columbus, or to Cincinnati, or to New York," Gingrich told employees of the Jergens metal manufacturing plant. "Remember what it felt like on 9/11 when 3,100 Americans were killed. Now imagine an attack where you add two zeros. And it's 300,000 dead. Maybe a half million wounded. This is a real danger. This is not science fiction. That's why I think it's important that we have the strongest possible national security."

Gingrich has made similar remarks before, but not always in such foreboding detail.

Military experts say Iran has no way to deliver a bomb of such devastating power to the United States, even if the government could produce such a weapon. Iran lacks long-range bombers and missiles that would be needed.

A smaller, so-called "dirty bomb," capable of spreading radiation, is the most likely short-term threat if Iran did actually produce a nuclear device. It's conceivable that such a bomb could be smuggled into the United States.

Gingrich sounded much more chipper and positive in his other remarks. He did not mention GOP rivals Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum in his unusually short 12 minutes at the microphone and made only a passing reference to President Obama.

Gingrich restated his goal of giving workers the option of having private Social Security savings accounts.

Gingrich was scheduled to return to Washington on Wednesday. He had no publicly scheduled events Thursday.