Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich waves upon arrival for a campaign event at a hotel Feb. 24 in Federal Way, Wash.
ALBANY — He’s done it before — come back from the political dead when everyone had counted him out. The first miracle occurred last summer when his campaign sank, then he was up like a cork to lead in the Iowa race in December. He lost that race in a disappointing 4th place finish before winning big in South Carolina.
Six weeks have passed since in which Gingrich has yet to smell the rose of victory. And so his sights have set on Georgia, his adopted home and the state where he represented the 6th Congressional District in the House for 20 years. With 76 delegates up for grabs, Georgia represents the biggest prize in the 10-state Super Tuesday group this Tuesday.
A win in Georgia — a big win — is essential. A loss could be crippling. Other important states have been neglected in favor of a three-day bus tour to population centers in the northern part of the state. According to Patrick Millsaps, Gingrich’s chief of staff and an attorney with the Albany Law firm of Hall Booth Smith and Slover, confidence is high for a big win. If Gingrich can take “three or four” of the Super Tuesday states, he said, it could make the difference for the campaign.
“It’s a must-win for Newt without a doubt,” Millsaps said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But we’re all confidant. If we do well here, we’re well positioned for some other states coming up, like Alabama and Mississippi, and the delegates are adding up.”
Millsaps called the Republican primary “early still,” pointing out that even after the Super Tuesday voting, some 65 percent of the delegates will remain unearned.
While the strategy might seem a little iffy, a significant win in Georgia is possible. A Survey USA poll released last week shows Gingrich leading Santorum and Romney by 15 and 16 percentage points, respectively.
Romney, who is said to have a small Georgia organization remaining from his 2008 campaign, figures to do well in metropolitan Atlanta, where 45 percent of likely Republican voters live. Romney’s weakness, according to pollsters, lies in the fact that the majority of GOP primary voters are expected to be evangelicals — a group with which Romney has not done well. It’s thought that Santorum will do better with evangelicals but carries with him his own particular disadvantages. For the most part, Gingrich’s rivals have come close to giving over the state to him.
In addition to his history as a U.S. representative, to win in Georgia Gingrich is leaning on his banner promise of $2.50 for a gallon of gas if he’s elected president. He’s criticized Obama for not drilling more aggressively in the Gulf and for dragging his feet to approve the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.
Obama has countered the campaign promise, saying, “That’s not a plan, especially since we’re already drilling. That’s a bumper sticker.”
In a 2009 study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, it was determined that even with unlimited offshore drilling, a maximum of 500,000 additional barrels of crude oil would be produced each day. According to the EIA, on the world market that works out to only a 3 cents per gallon reduction at the pump for American consumers.
Even though the U.S. still imports about half its oil, gasoline consumption has been declining because of a weakened economy and conservation measures. The largest U.S. export in terms of dollars in 2011 was fuel. This year, the country’s gasoline exports are expected to total $88 billion.
According to Millsaps, though, the figures don’t appear to compute. The Gingrich camp believes strongly that simply by carrying through with aggressive drilling, along with measures such as approving the Keystone pipeline, leaders in major oil-producing nations would become more apt to lower prices.
“It’s happened before,” Millsaps said.
Gingrich has also slammed Obama for his apology to Afghan President Hamid Karsai concerning the recent burning of Korans at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. As president, Gingrich says, he would never apologize to a foreign ruler for anything.
“No more apologies,” Millsaps said of Gingrich’s position.
Obama has stated his decision to apologize was based on his sense of responsibility for the safety of U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan. Such an act is not without precedent in the GOP. George W. Bush apologized for a similar event in Iraq. When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Gingrich about the Bush event, Gingrich declined to offer an opinion, saying, “I wasn’t a presidential candidate at that point.”