Newt Gingrich’s Saturday speech on energy policy left audience members with a renewed respect for Gingrich’s intelligence, although lingering problems of his personal life remain an issue for voters.
“It was really great to come to one of these things and really get something solid out of a candidate besides, ‘Rah, rah, rah, vote for me,’” said Paul Cummings Jr. of Alameda, the Secretary of the Log Cabin California Republicans. “I was very impressed.”
As Cummings said, although Gingrich is far from clinching the Republican Presidential nominee, he stepped away from the traditional campaign message of politicians, highlighting their accomplishments and cutting down the competition. Instead, he focused on one issue: his ideas on energy policy versus those of President Barack Obama.
He went through a recent Obama speech on energy, refuting those points he disagreed with and adding his own policy ideas, including opening drilling in the American west to reduce dependency on the Middle East for fuel. While he spoke in favor of finding renewable, alternative energy sources, such as algae, he recommended drilling for American oil in the meantime.
“He has a really intelligent eye for spotting the weaknesses in President Obama’s positions,” said Mike Gleim of San Francisco. “A lot of debates have shied away from giving candidates that much time to show they have command of an area and ideas…[this] showed Newt had thought about this.”
Gleim is a Rick Santorum supporter, but said he appreciated a candidate going in-depth on an issue, especially one as timely as energy as gas prices rise across the country.
Others in attendance echoed this opinion, many pointing out Gingrich’s ability to take a complicated issue and break it down. Gingrich’s culminating idea was that of Newt= $2.50, or with Gingrich as President, gas prices would steady at $2.50 per gallon through drilling on home soil.
“We know that he’s the smartest politician on either side. He understands the issues better,” said Mark Abernathy of Bakersfield. “He was able to clarify his point so we were able to understand…he’s something special for this time and this age.”
However, Abernathy also noted that Gingrich’s personal life could stand in the way of full Republican Party support.
“The only thing we worry about is, has he had too many wives?” Abernathy said. While past presidents have had two wives, he worried that Gingrich being on his third marriage might alienate some voters. However, he said in a case like this, voters must look at the good and the bad, and he believes Gingrich’s knowledge, experience and demonstrated track record on a national scale as House Speaker outweigh his marital issues.
Jay Grassell of Yuba City, agreed, saying he had been very conflicted over whom to support up until this point, but is now leaning towards Gingrich.
“Newt has intellect on steroids,” he said. “Some mistakes in his personal life [are] holding a lot of people back…[but] I believe that he has changed.”
Audience members took hold of his message on counteracting rising gas prices as he walked them through decision made by the Obama administration on halting offshore drilling, attempting to draw connections between these decisions and climbing gas prices.
The technique seemed to pay off.
“My favorite part was contrasting where we were with the promises made by Barack Obama on the one hand and where we are today as result of the exact policies, which is polar opposite to where he said we would be” said Mark Pruner, California Republican Party County Chairmen’s Association. “In an actual, logical, understandable manner…we heard truth.”