Gingrich doubles down on claim to President Reagan’s legacy

THE VILLAGES, Fla.-- Newt Gingrich linked Mitt Romney to Wall Street malfeasants, compared himself with Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, and stridently attacked President Obama — all at one campaign event here Sunday afternoon.

Gingrich, down badly in Florida polls but determined to extend the fight for the GOP nomination, clearly sees no merit in trimming his sails at this point. Rather, he is intent on making an asset out of the grandiosity and rhetorical combativeness for which his opponents often mock him.

Despite bad results in three opinion polls released this morning, Gingrich was the most energized he has appeared on the stump in days.

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It was not hard to work out why. A big crowd, estimated at around 2,500, turned out to see him in warm sunshine. They interrupted his 30-minute speech on more than one occasion with chants of "Newt, Newt, Newt!"

Romney's double-digit opinion poll lead here has been built in part on negative advertising and on having other politicians blast the former Speaker. The suggestion that he was a less than wholehearted supporter of President Ronald Reagan's agenda has aggravated Gingrich especially.

He told the crowd here that Michael Reagan, the former president's son, would campaign with him on Monday.

This "should tell you how false the ads were earlier this week by Romney to suggest I was not a Reagan Republican," he said.

Gingrich went on: "Nancy Reagan said in 1995, 'Just as Barry [Goldwater] passed the torch to Ronnie, Ronnie has passed the torch to Newt.' Michael will be here tomorrow to prove to every doubting person that I am the legitimate heir of the Reagan movement — not some liberal from Massachusetts."

Gingrich has also introduced an interesting variation into his stump speeches at recent events. He now complains not just about the Washington establishment but about the influence of New York, and Wall Street specifically, as well. The intention appears to be to link Romney to discredited financial institutions.

"I do not believe Wall Street can give enough money to run enough negative ads to hide from the truth," Gingrich said. "The truth is we have been served badly, the American people, by the establishment in both parties."

A number of surrogates for the former Massachusetts governor, including Tim Pawlenty, hit back at Gingrich Sunday afternoon for his attacks on Romney's integrity, but the chorus is surely unlikely to affect him.

Gingrich also doubled-down on his call for a lunar colony. Noting that his opponents had "ridiculed" him for the idea, he suggested that his approach was emblematic of a boldness he shared with Lincoln and Kennedy.

Lincoln, he noted, had advocated for a transcontinental railroad at a time when the idea seemed fanciful to most people. Kennedy had followed a similar path by saying in 1961 that the United States would put a man on the moon before the decade was over.

On a less elevated note, Gingrich launched several sallies against Obama. He said that one contrast between himself and the president was that, while he believed in the Constitution and other founding documents, "Obama believes in the writings of Saul Alinsky and in the ideas of a European socialist bureaucratic system."

Also memorable — even if they struck the kind of tone his critics abhor — were Gingrich's comments regarding Obama's view of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Gingrich said that he would take Ahmadinejad's threats against Israel and the West at face value, whereas people like Obama would think "that this is a sign that Ahmadinejad probably had a bad childhood; that his potty-training was probably inadequate; and that he was trying to come to grips with his mother's failure to love him enough."