Republican Party presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich visited Macon on Thursday, March 1 as a part of his Georgia campaign. The former Speaker of the House appeared at the Hephzibah Ministries gym, delivering a 40-minute speech touching on the importance of American energy independence, foreign policy, the economy, and Gingrich’s own position in the Republican primary race.
The rally began with a call to prayer from Republican activist and Bibb County Republican Party vice chair Bill Knowles, after which Mercer senior Matt Hickman led the packed gym in the pledge of allegiance. As Gingrich took the podium, he greeted the audience and began criticizing President Obama’s Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu. According to Gingrich, Chu’s focus on alternative energies is short cited, saying “I’m willing to explore [alternative energy]. I think there are lots of things we can do as a country in the future, and I’m willing to invest in that. But it is a fact that we know how to drill.”
Apart from his focus on energy independence, Gingrich spoke on national security and American economic interests, citing his belief that Barack Obama has not made the country safer or more economically prosperous during his three years as President. Gingrich also billed himself as a uniquely positioned candidate with years of experience in the political realm. The Georgia native cited his position as Speaker of the House during the Clinton administration and boasted about the nation’s economic security and balanced budget during that time.
Towards the end of his speech, Gingrich began tying his plans for energy independence and national security together. He stated that increased American oil production would lead to more American autonomy and less reliance on Middle Eastern oil suppliers, who he sees as supporters or global terrorism. Gingrich said, “One of my goals is to say to the Saudis, ‘ You are not going to be tolerated paying for terrorism around the world anymore.’”
Several Mercer students and alumni were in attendance of the event, offering various perspectives on Gingrich, his policies, and his place in the ongoing Republican primaries.
“A lot of folks are scared of some his attitude and some of the things he has to say, but his campaign slogan is ‘Rebuilding the America We Love’ and really what that means to me is he’s going to bring back personal responsibility. That’s the America that I love. He’s got a lot of strong words about debt and the deficit — stronger words than any other candidate out there — and as a young voter, somebody who has to work for 30 or 40 more years, the deficit is the biggest issue to me, and I think Newt is the best candidate to face that.” said Alan Franks, Mercer class of 2010.
However, not everyone in attendance was in favor of Gingrich’s policies and performance at the rally. Those in attendance ranged from Republicans skeptical of Gingrich to liberals strongly opposed to Gingrich’s policies.
“I found him infuriating. He is everything that I hate about American bullying tactics. It is astoundingly horrific to me that a person can advocate freedom of religion while defending those who participated in koran burning. Furthermore, since he is so great with numbers, could he enlighten the audience on how many wives he’s had while still supporting ‘traditional marriage?’” said Mercer senior Kyle Shook.
“I’m a Republican, but I’m in favor of Mitt Romney in this race. As opposed to Gingrich, I think Romney has the best chance of winning, and I think he has the best positions. I consider myself fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and he’s the one who most closely matches up to my position. I think Newt’s tax plan is based more around repealing previous laws, but Mitt Romney has a more positive, proactive plan for the country.” said Alec Chappell, senior political science major.
Five days after delivering his speech, Gingrich won the state of Georgia in the Republican Party primary elections, with just under half of the total voters supporting him. Mitt Romney trailed Gingrich in second place with 25 percent of the total vote.