WEST DES MOINES – Long-time Iowa Republican Lillie Anderson said Monday that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has turned her into a believer that he should be the next U.S. president.
“I didn’t enter as a Gingrich fan,” confided Anderson, 76, who backed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty until he dropped out of the 2012 GOP president sweepstakes. However, his message to employees of GuideOne Insurance on Monday, Nov. 14, and his past two debate performances convinced her that he’s the candidate she’ll support when she attends her Jan. 3 precinct caucuses.
“I do admire his stands,” said Anderson, and she also likes that he hasn’t criticized other GOP rivals – something she believes is “dissuading independents” and giving Democrats and President Obama political ammunition they will use effectively against the Republican who eventually emerges as her party’s 2012 presidential nominee.
Anderson appears to be among a number of Republicans who are rethinking the 2012 race and giving the former House speaker a second look as GOP contenders Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have lost some of their early appeal and luster.
Gingrich has risen in political opinion polls and is vying to become the conservative alternative to front-running Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
During a campaign stop at GuideOne insurance – a West Des Moines niche-market insurer that established itself in 1946 as America’s first auto insurance company for non-drinkers – Gingrich delivered a sobering message about America’s economic future and his negative prospects for any solution to the federal deficit to come through a bipartisan congressional Super Committee by Nov. 23.
“I believe we’re in real trouble. I don’t think this is Barack Obama. This is bigger, deeper, and harder than Barack Obama,” the former Georgia representative told the lunch-time gathering.
“I really think we’re at a crossroads. I think this election may be as important as any since 1860. I think we are going to face a definition of who we are as a people,” he said.
Gingrich said there are ways to solve the nation’s current economic problems similar to what was done in the 1990s without having the threats currently being posed by Washington policymakers to slash spending and raise taxes at a time when unemployment is running at 9 percent. “This is an invitation to an economic catastrophe,” he said. “We are the engine that pulls the world economy.”
Gingrich advocated an approach that would create jobs through innovation that would lower government costs and boost revenue from taxes paid by more wage earners, shift welfare reform efforts to the states with block grant funding to achieve savings, generate royalties and revenues by boosting U.S. energy production and developing federally owned lands, and by eliminating waste using Strong American Now principles and purging fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
If he succeeds in becoming the GOP president candidate, Gingrich said he wants to have seven “Lincoln-Douglass” style debates that would force Obama to have an honest conversation about the nation’s future course “not just hide behind $1 billion in negative advertising.”
“I think I can represent classic American exceptionalism,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s anybody else with the range of experience, the range of background, the willingness to take the beating that I’ve exhibited in 18 years,” Gingrich said. “I find it very formidable to think that I might win and that with your help that I might go through eight very difficult years. I don’t know any other way for this country to get back on track except to be willing to do that.”
Anderson said she liked Gingrich’s message and was willing to put aside any concerns that have been raised about personal life. “I know all about his marital situation,” she said. “He’s done a lot of growing since then. That won’t effect my vote at all.”
During his weekly news conference Monday, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad noted that some people had “left him for dead” after Gingrich’s Iowa campaign staff resigned en masse over differences regarding his 2012 strategy and he cautioned against ruling any candidate out of contention prematurely.
“Newt Gingrich is not out of this race,” he said.