GULFPORT, Miss. — Newt Gingrich swung through this port city Friday to make a stand that for much of this week was thought would be his last.
But maybe it won’t be.
Contradicting aides who said the former House speaker would bow out of the race should he lose here and in Alabama next week, Gingrich — who has proved to be a stubborn opponent — reprised his earlier pledge: “We’re going to Tampa,” he said, referring to the Republican nomination convention.
His last rally of the day was held in the auditorium of Gulfport High School. The place had a circus feel, and Gingrich showed up nearly an hour late. A high school jazz band played before Gingrich took the stage, where both the U.S. and the Mississippi flags hung. A woman walked up and down the aisles of the auditorium yelling: “Campaign buttons. Three for $10!” And high school students, who made up a good portion of the crowd, yammered in the back of the room while other teens stood on bleachers holding up “Mississippi Loves Newt” signs.
Gingrich fed on the energy in the room as a local supervisor rallied the crowd to “bring back America” and declared, “Our Christian beliefs are not to be questioned.”
Gingrich did not look like a man wrapping up his campaign at the rally. He slammed the job numbers that came out out Friday, again calling President Obama “the greatest food stamp president in history.”
“His achievement has not been creating jobs. It has been driving people out of the job market,” Gingrich said of Obama. “It makes him the best food stamp president in American history. I want to be the best paycheck president in American history. When we debate this fall, I want to draw a contrast between food stamps and unemployment and jobs and pay checks.”
Gingrich also chided Obama’s energy policy as anti-energy, referring to the president as “President Algae” and to himself as “President Drilling.”
“If I have to choose between creating jobs in Saudi Arabia and creating jobs in Mississippi, then I choose Mississippi,” said Gingrich, who stopped by an oil rig Friday afternoon to make a video purportedly aimed at telling Obama how easy it is to drill for natural gas.
In an interview before the Gulfport rally, Gingrich told the Associated Press that he likes his chances with Southern voters.
“We’ll clearly do well enough to move on, and I think there’s a fair chance we’ll win,” he said.
Gingrich will campaign in Mississippi and Alabama through Tuesday, when both states will hold their primary elections.