DES MOINES, Iowa -- Apparently, the speakers like one another -- but not the 99 percenters.
Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, collected endorsements Wednesday morning from two of his legislative brethren in the first two voting states: Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien.
The three men gathered for a joint appearance in the Iowa State Capitol Wednesday, but they were briefly -- and loudly -- interrupted by a handful of Occupy Wall Street-style protesters.
“You really need to put people first,” one of the protesters said before being escorted out of the room by Gingrich’s private security detail. “I know there’s people between you and me, but I’d really like to engage you in conversation.”
A second outburst followed the first, and Gingrich was hounded by the protesters as he left the event. Gingrich called the protesters the “one-tenth of 1 percent, all noise, no ideas.”
His endorsers, meanwhile, hailed the former speaker’s record of pushing for conservative reform in Washington.
“Only one candidate has achieved meaningful change in Washington, and that candidate is Newt Gingrich,” Paulsen said.
Gingrich and O’Brien were scheduled to fly to New Hampshire later in the day to repeat the announcement in Manchester.
As in other aspects of his campaign, Gingrich is a bit late to the game of collecting endorsements, which he began in earnest only a few weeks ago, after his position had rocketed from near the bottom of the standings to the top in the Republican nominating contest.
In contrast, his chief rival for the nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has accumulated a dauntingly long list of supporters.
Still, Gingrich continues to gather more support despite new polls showing that his lead is slipping. Earlier this week, the campaign announced the support of former congressman J.C. Watts, a popular and talented speaker on the conservative lecture circuit.
On Wednesday, Watts went to work as a surrogate for Gingrich, speaking to a group of Iowa pastors over breakfast in Des Moines and holding several other events.
Following his appearance in New Hampshire, Gingrich and his wife, Callista, were scheduled to return home to the Washington area, where he will hold an evening rally in Arlington to gin up support for his effort to collect enough signatures to get on the Virginia ballot.
Asked whether he would make that goal, Gingrich acknowledged the challenge by saying that Virginia “will be very exciting.”