Newt Gingrich maintains momentum in Tampa Bay area after debate

9:01 PM, Jan 24, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Coming off Monday night's debate, Newt Gingrich hoped his momentum in Florida what not be derailed by a clear shift in Mitt Romney's strategy to go on the offensive.

Based upon the day's events, it has not.

Just hours after exchanging jabs with Mitt Romney, Gingrich arrived to an overflow crowd in St. Petersburg. Cars blocked the streets. Lines were out the door at the Tick Tock restaurant where Gingrich wasted no time continuing the war of words.

"Romney has a new debate coach, whose specialty is to say as many untrue things as fast as you can," said Gingrich, garnering applause.

When not directing his comments at Romney, Gingrich was taking aim at President Obama. He criticized the president on everything from the economy to foreign policy. Gingrich promised listeners that, if elected, he would "on day one" repeal Obamacare, repeal the Dodd Frank Consumer Protection Act, and more.

"Our goal would be by the time President Obama lands in Chicago to have dismantled about 40 percent of his government that afternoon through executive orders," said Gingrich.

What Gingrich did not touch upon were the ethical questions that Romney now readily raises at every opportunity. Protestors outside the campaign event raised the same issues. Questions about Gingrich's marriage. His role as Speaker of the House. His links to housing lender Freddie Mac.

Richard McCahey, protesting outside the restaurant, said he loved America, but not Newt.

"He was a lobbyist and he wrote it off as if he was a historian. It's a clear lie," said McCahey.

But those who support Gingrich, and there seemed to be a growing number of them, say his history is not as important to them as his vision for America's future.

"Don't care about his past. He's been awesome," said John Dean, who came to listen to Gingrich.

"You know everyone lobbies somewhere along the line," said John's wife, Janice. "So, no, he's the one candidate that when he speaks he tells you what he's going to do."

Those were the type of encouraging words that the Gingrich campaign wants to hear. "This is exactly what happened in South Carolina," said Gingrich, "and people power beats money power every time."

Gingrich's campaign is getting a lot of support now from Florida's established GOP political machine. Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is now Gingrich's campaign chair and Senator Marco Rubio's campaign managers are helping Gingrich organize.

Gingrich did not stick around to take questions. He had another public appearance in Sarasota inside a hangar at Dolphin Aviation. There, again, there appeared to be no lack of enthusiasm for Gingrich as a couple of thousand people filled the area.

Gingrich was expected to be in Naples by early evening. On Wednesday, he heads to Miami and the Space Coast.

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