ATLANTIC- The Newt Gingrich campaign literally rolled into the Coca-Cola capital of Iowa (that's what the sign said) on New Year's Eve as the former House speaker fought to keep his once leading presidential bid viable east of the Mississippi River.
In a meeting at the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant store room, the Newt caravan pulled in only feet away from pallets of soda stacked three stories high.
The Gingrich was clearly under the weather, the 68 year old gave an expansive talk on his campaign, the barrage of attacks by the other candidates and their independently operating allies and the issues he intends to challenge President Barack Obama on if Gingrich secures the nonibation and survives Iowa.
Gingrich played down Tuesday's results stating that Iowans could send an interesting message by standing up to the cut-throat tactics employed against him by the party establishment. Gingrich also fielded a wide-range of questions from the audience seeking responses to the smears that have leveled his candidacy.
The crowd of 100+ seemed supportive and were present to cheer him on more so than to decide if they should caucus for him.
A few interesting notes from the event:
1) Gingrich went to great pains to soften his image, having his daughters and grandchildren on hand to meet with voters in addition to his wife. One accomplishment Newt touted was his role in allowing tenants in federal housing to have pets and the unveiling of his new campaign website "Pets for Newt". It almost seems that while Gingrich is running for president in 2012, his psyche is very much caught in the bad media days of the late 1990s and that he is more interested in how he is being perceived than winning a campaign.
It's as if he is more concerned with posterity than politics.
2) Stressed his refusal to attack fellow Republicans while trying to portray himself as a victim, which might be a strong contrast with his earlier image but is not presidential. And after the McCain debacle of four years before, the voters wan a fighter to take the battle for America to Obama.
3) Unlike other stagecrafted and overchoreographed campaigns, Gingrich invites a freeflowing dialogue with the voters at his events almost daring ir challenging them to stump him on something. Gingrich spoke without notes or teleprompter.
4) Gladhandling Gingrich. For a man who too often comes off like he doesn't care for people, Gingrich didn't leave until he shook every hand and posed for every picture request.