The Washington Post

Gingrich intensifies Deep South strategy, shifting resources to Alabama, Mississippi

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Newt Gingrich is canceling campaign events scheduled for Kansas at the end of the week to shore up support in the Deep South. The former House speaker plans to pour his time and resources into Alabama and Mississippi.

“Everything between Spartanburg all the way to Texas, those all need to go for Gingrich,” said campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond.

Gingrich had six campaign appearances scheduled in Kansas Friday and Saturday. Instead, the candidate’s bus, rallies and campaign events will be focused on a southern strategy intent on winning the two states that will hold their primaries next week and then moving on to Texas. Gingrich’s two wins so far in the Republican presidential nomination contest have come in southern states: South Carolina and Georgia.

At a rally here that attracted dozens of enthusiastic supporters, Gingrich promised to stick in the race saying, “I believe it is going to be impossible for a moderate to win the general election. We tried it in 1996, and it didn’t work. We tried it in 2008, and it didn’t work.”

He renewed criticism of his opponents, saying both Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney are insufficiently conservative and chiding Romney for running a negative campaign.

Campaign aides also brushed off suggestions by supporters of Santorum that Gingrich drop out of the race to allow conservatives to coalesce behind one candidate in opposition to Romney.

“All of the logic being used by the Santorum campaign if simply reversed, it could be used on Rick Santorum,” Hammond said. “We’ll argue, Santorum is splitting Mitt Romney’s moderate vote.”

The GOP primary will go on for many more months, Hammond said. “We’ll stick in the race,” he said.

In a radio interview Wednesday morning, Gingrich himself made clear that he is not looking to give Santorum the opportunity to face Romney in a head-to-head match up.

“If I thought he was a slam dunk to beat Romney and to beat Obama, I would really consider getting out. I don’t,” Gingrich said on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” radio show Wednesday. “I think each of the three candidates has strengths and weaknesses and that this is a very healthy vetting process.”

Gingrich has described himself as a “tortoise” moving slowly but steadily toward the nomination as he hailed his victory in Georgia on Super Tuesday.

At the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Montgomery, a banner was hung reading “Promise of a Newt Day” and an enthusiastic crowd of a few dozen greeted him.

Gingrich looks at the Republican strongholds of the south as “Gingrich country” — places “where you can sniff out what a conservative is,” Hammond said.

In both places he trained almost exclusively on one issue: energy.

Gingrich again pledged to bring gas prices down should he become president by supporting increased oil drilling in the United States, he painted the Obama administration as anti-fossil fuels and then went after Romney on the issue.

“Romney said I was pandering by promising $2.50 gas,” Gingrich said. “No, this is called leadership.”

Midway through his remarks Gingrich paused to hold up a copy of his book “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less,” which was brought to the rally by a supporter.

“This is what makes me different from other candidates. I have a whole book on how to do it,” Gingrich said, turning to the supporter who brought the book he added, “I promise to sign it.”

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has been a business reporter, covered presidential campaigns and written about civil rights and race. More recently, she has covered the first lady's office, politics and culture.

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