Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, scrambling to secure enough support to appear on the Virginia ballot during the state’s March primary next year, urged party activists in suburban Richmond Thursday morning to sign his candidate petitions .
The fomer House speaker did not mention his chief rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, in his 14-minute speech, but
instead focused his criticism on President Obama.
“Everything he believes in kills jobs — too much red tape, too much regulation, too much litigation, too many taxes,’’ Gingrich said at the Short Pump Hilton.
Gingrich took a couple of jabs at Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Romney during a question-and-answer period. He said Paul does not believe the threat of Iran is as serious as he does, and that Romney’s health care policy in Massachusetts will hurt him in New Hampshire. “If he loses New Hampshire, I don’t see how he has a base to do anything,’’ he said.
Gingrich said he expects to come in second in New Hampshire and third or fourth in Iowa, and win South Carolina and Florida, states that border Georgia, which he represented in Congress for 20 years.
He made a two-day trip to Virginia to try to get enough support to meet the state’s signature deadline Thursday. “This is a state where I’m pretty comfortable about what happens,’’ he said.
Gingrich lives in McLean and there were numerous references to him being a Virginian.
A poll released Wednesday showed Gingrich with a slight lead over Romney among Virginia Republicans in the race for president. The Quinnipiac University poll shows Gingrich at 30 percent and Romney at 25 percent among Republican voters.
Candidates have until 5 p.m. to collect 10,000 signatures from across the state and another 400 from each congressional district.
The task took him away from New Hampshire and Iowa just weeks before voters go to the polls. Most GOP presidential candidates have come through Virginia once or twice, but are concentrating on the early primary states.
Gingrich’s campaign was still collecting signatures Wednesday at a rally in Arlington and again Thursday in Richmond. But Gingrich said he would have enough and he would personally deliver them this afternoon.
Romney became the first Republican presidential candidate Tuesday to submit signatures for Virginia’s primary election ballot. President Obama was the first presidential candidate to submit his signatures Dec. 2.
Both parties will begin certifying signatures Thursday afternoon, and finish the task by 5 p.m. Friday.
Thursday’s low-dollar breakfast fundraiser the Hilton Hotel in Short Pump raised money for the state party.
“It’s great to be exposed to these people,’’ said former Lt. Gov. John Hager (R), who was seated in the audience. “The others have come too.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, introduced Gingrich. Several presidential candidates have asked him for his endorsement, but so far he has declined.
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