DES MOINES -- Iowa, Newt Gingrich is the future.
That’s the message Gingrich has had for Iowa voters over the last two days as the Republican presidential field’s focus has more fully turned to the fast-approaching Iowa caucuses.
“You don’t get very far into the future if you hide from it,” Gingrich, now the field’s frontrunner, told an audience at the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company headquarters here on Thursday morning.
And these days in Iowa, it’s not that easy to hide from Gingrich. He campaigned across the state in pizza restaurants, radio stations and corporate headquarters. He’ll cap the visit with an address at a Republican Party dinner Thursday night in Johnston.
“I want to bring the world that works into government to fundamentally change it,” Gingrich said repeatedly at the events. Before he got to the future though, Gingrich, as his wont, reached into the past.
“Do any of you remember what happened in Council Bluffs in 1859?” he asked a stumped audience of insurance company employees on Thursday morning. (The crowd at the Pizza King in Council Bluffs on Wednesday night fared better, “Lincoln!” they shouted back at him.) Gingrich used the pop quiz about Abraham Lincoln’s decision here to build the intercontinental railroad as an opportunity to remind the audience that he was a history professor, but also to talk about the importance of being a “visionary.”
And Gingrich’s stump speech, to the extent that it is one, is an amalgam of ideas about transforming government (“the world that fails” in Gingrich parlance) into a smart and streamlined corporate system.
“This is going to be so hard, I do not ask anyone to be for me,” said Gingrich, adding, “The scale of change we need required me to ask you to be with me for the next eight years.”
His speech meandered into education, science, corporate governance, the economy, and the role of God in American history. (“We’re always subordinate to God,” he said, arguing that liberals believe “We’re randomly gathered protoplasm and we’re fortunate we didn’t end up as rhinoceroses.”) To the extent that he has applause lines, they go something like this:
In Council Bluffs on Wednesday night, he compared the efficiency of Fed Ex and UPS logistical systems tracking the movement of “24 million packages” with the inability of the federal government to keep tabs on “11 million illegal visitors sitting still.”
The crowd chuckled.
“One of my proposals is very simple. We send a package to every person who is here illegally,” Gingrich said, the crowd now laughing. “And when it’s delivered we pull it up and we know exactly where they are.”
“Now let me just say for our friends in the press,” Gingrich concluded, “that was called hyperbole.”
The crowd at the Pizza King also applauded his stated intention to get “control of the border,” and make English an official government language.
Immigration has been a prickly subject for Gingrich, who has taken a less hard line position than some of his rivals, especially Mitt Romney, on deporting illegal immigrants.
On Thursday morning, Gingrich concluded his appearance by signing a pledge to the “Americans for Securing the Border,” a non-profit organization, “to build a date certain, double fence across the US border with Mexico prior to the end of 2013.”
The organization’s chairman, Van D. Hipp, introduced Gingrich as “no Johnny come lately when it comes to border security.” After the event, he said that talks with Gingrich to sign the pledge, which Michele Bachmann has also signed, had long been in the works. But Hipp said that Gingrich’s campaign called to “coordinate the timing” after a debate last month in which he took a position that some of his rivals have criticized as amnesty.