MANCHESTER—Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich blasted Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney for suggesting in a Sunday morning debate that those who need to win an elected office to pay their bills shouldn’t run.
At a town hall meeting for Hispanic voters at a Mexican restaurant, Gingrich said Romney’s comment was “very much the opposite of the American tradition historically.”
At a Sunday morning debate sponsored by NBC and Facebook, Romney relayed a story about advice he’d received from his father, who told him you should never run for office if you need to win to pay the mortgage.
The anecdote was meant to show that Romney is an outsider who hasn’t spent his entire life in politics. But it also served as a reminder of his personal wealth.
“We want everyday, normal people to be able to run for office, not just millionaires,” Gingrich said. “I think it’s really important that we find a way to get back to making it possible for everyday, middle class candidates to go out and run for office and have a reasonable chance of winning.”
The unusual campaign stop brought an especially heavy crush of media and a particularly vocal contingent of Occupy Wall Street protesters, who banged drums—and sometimes the restaurant windows—as Gingrich spoke.
Gingrich was introduced by New Hampshire state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez (R)—the first Latino elected official in the state—and his daughter, who briefly addressed the crowd in Spanish.
“I’m here because we really believe that we have an opportunity to pull together people of all backgrounds,” Gingrich said. “We particularly wanted to reach out to the Latino community, but also frankly, to all ethnic communities…It’s very important for us to make a case that we are in favor of many people, from many places, having the opportunity to become Americans—that this is truly a land of opportunity.”
Gingrich has distinguished himself in the Republican field through his more moderate stand on immigration and his aggressive outreach to immigrant communities. His campaign distributed Spanish-language fliers and buttons at the event. One glossy card, available in both Spanish and English, offered “10 reasons why Latinos should support Newt Gingrich for president.”
Among the reasons, “Latinos owe Obama nothing” and “Newt Gingrich has a record of Hispanic inclusion.”
Gingrich told the crowd that he favors modernizing the process for obtain temporary visas to visit the United States, as well as a more robust guest worker program. He said he would like to secure the border and said the United States has a “moral obligation” to help Mexico fight drug traffickers largely funded by U.S. money.
He said he favors allowing young people who have been brought to the United States illegally to become citizens if they serve in the United States military, one piece of the so-called Dream Act backed by many Democrats. (He said he did not support another part of the act, which would also provide a path to citizenship for those who attend college.)
And he repeated a plan that has come under intense fire from Republican opponents to establish local review boards to determine whether some longtime illegal immigrants who have paid taxes and established ties to their communities could obtain legal residency.
“My goal is very straightforward: We have to end a period of having people in the shadows. It’s bad for the country. It’s bad for the people,” Gingrich said.
He said Americans want a solution to the immigration issue that does not demand tearing up families. “The American people aren’t heartless,” Gingrich said in a line that echoed a state from Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who apologized after suggesting in a debate that those who opposed his home state’s program of offering in-state tuition to some children brought into the country illegally lacked compassion.