Meet the Candidates: Newt Gingrich

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Meet the Candidates: Newt Gingrich


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In preparation for Saturday's Nevada Republican Caucus, KUNR's Kate McGee looks at each GOP candidate coming to the Silver State and their chances of victory in the first Republican campaign race in the West.

The Former House Speaker visited Reno's Great Basin Brewery Wednesday, as the Republican presidential candidates arrive in the Silver State before Saturday's GOP caucus. Newt Gingrich left Florida with a second place finish in Tuesday's primary, losing to Mitt Romney by a margin of 15 percent.

Gingrich supporters filled the Great Basin Brewery, chanting the former speaker's first name as he arrived. Gingrich spoke about shrinking government, repealing the healthcare legislation and authorizing the Keystone pipeline, among other initiatives he says he will complete in his first few days in office, if elected.

"Our goal is within a few hours of signing the inaugural address is to sign enough bills and enough executive orders that by the time Presisdent Obama lands in Chicago, we will have dismantled 40 percent of his government," the former speaker said, as the entire restaurant cheered.

As former speaker of the House, Gingrich has a history in Washington D.C. and a no nonsense reputation. University of Nevada, Reno Political Scientist Eric Herzig says that can work for him, and against him.

"For the most ardent conservative, the tea party folks, they want Newt to take off the gloves, call Obama names, [say] 'Hey that's the fiesty Newt," Herzig said. "But too many people are looking at that, thinking, 'that's getting us nowhere."

According to Herzig, and Professor Fred Lokken at Truckee Meadows Community College, many see Gingrich as a Washington insider.

However, according to Kim Bacchus, the Washoe County Chair for the Gingrich campaign, his insight into Washington politics is an asset.

"It's critical" she said. "They better know how to navigate those choppy waters of political gainsmanship. He's already shown that he's knows how to work across the aisle to have conservative policies enacted."

Gingrich mostly appeals to extreme conservatives, like the Tea Party. The movement thrived in Nevada in 2010, when Sharron Angle ran against Nevada Senator Harry Reid. But Professor Herzig says now Gingrich's connection with the Tea Party may not help him on Saturday.

"Many Nevada Republicans are a little upset with the Tea Party folks, given the debacle of Sharron Angle and the failure to deliver there," he said.

But Gingrich's main problem in the Nevada caucus are his GOP oppoenents, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
Both candidates have well-established ground games across the state.

Nevada's large Mormon population is helpful to Romney. In South Carolina, his faith hurt him with Christian voters in the state. As for Ron Paul, his libertarian streak is popular among Nevadans, especially his views on the Second Amendment and states rights.

Chuck Muth, the Nevada consultant for a pro-Gingrich Super Pac, Winning the Future, says the real story in Nevada
 is the race between Gingrich and Paul, which he sees as the battle for second place.

"Neither candidate probably has any expectation in defeating Mitt Romney in what's essentially is his hometown court. But depending on who comes in second and by how much, that gives them a little bit of momentum going forward after Nevada," Muth said.

UNR Professor Herzik says despite Gingrich's loss to Mitt Romney in Florida, people shouldn't write him off just yet.

"Gingrich has a good set of primaries coming up in March. He goes back to the American south which is where his base is. So, depending on how much damage he can do to Romney, that could affect what happens in the fall," Herzig said.

Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are both expected to hold rallies in Reno on Thursday. In our next part of this series, we'll look at Ron Paul's campaign.