In a campaign rally at the Weasler Auditorium Thursday night, GOP presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich emphasized his relationship to Wisconsin, stressing the Whitehall roots of his wife, Callista, and avoiding any mention of his GOP rivals.
Gingrich has been struggling in recent Republican contests, lagging behind the frontrunners, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. In a Marquette Law School poll released March 27, Gingrich placed last among the major candidates, receiving the support of only five percent of potential voters.
Gingrich announced March 27 that he would scale back his campaign due to financial constraints, and would instead focus on winning the nomination at the GOP convention in August.
“Our only opponent is Barack Obama, and we are committed to removing him from the White House,” Callista Gingrich said.
Gingrich spoke on a variety of topics ranging from the role of religion in America to what he described as the incompetence of the federal government.
Recalling the first flight of the Wright Brothers, he stressed that it was not the government and congressional funding that created aviation, but rather the work of private individuals.
“You have a government (today) dedicated to the avoidance of innovation,” Gingrich said.
He concluded with a call for the introduction of private investment accounts as a an alternative to the current Social Security system, an idea that has been one of the focal points of his campaign. Gingrich said that had these accounts been introduced during the 1970s, the revenue generated would be enough to pay off the current national debt.
After the speech, he answered questions from students and other members of the Milwaukee community. In response to questions regarding education, Gingrich said he supported a Pell Grant or voucher system for elementary and secondary education and denounced affirmative action policies.
“I believe people should be judged as individuals,” he said.
The audience left the speech divided, with politically active students’ minds seemingly unchanged. According to College Republican chairman and College of Business Administration junior Ethan Hollenberger, Gingrich was able to stand up to the occasionally hostile questions presented to him.
“He did a good job and was able to defend his positions well,” Hollenberger said.
But Rachel Contos, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and a member of the College Democrats, remained opposed to Gingrich’s conservative proposals and denounced the candidate’s use of American history and religion in promoting his message.
“I think he distorted the message of the Bible and of the founding fathers,” Contos said. “I think he has no sense of the people being born into a society.”