Columbia, S.C. — Newt Gingrich, who has been greeting crowds all day (first event: 8 a.m.), met his biggest crowd of the day here tonight. A ballroom at the Hilton in downtown Columbia was full of hollering, cheering, and whistling Newt fans.
Gingrich himself started on a more solemn, less buoyant note. “The biggest thing I take from the campaign in South Carolina is that it is very humbling and very sobering to have so many people who so deeply want their country to get back on the right track,” he said.
But he returned to one of his go-to topics shortly after. Noting the reaction to the media during this week’s debates, Gingrich said Americans feel the media are “elites who have been trying for a half century to force us to quit being Americans.”
He also pushed back against the narrative that he was a tremendous debater.
“It’s not that I am a good debater,” Gingrich said. “It is that I articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people.”
For his rivals, Gingrich had ample praise. “Rick Santorum showed enormous courage in Iowa when he had no money, nobody covered him, and he just kept campaigning,” he said. When some in the audience shouted “V.P.” after Santorum’s praise, Gingrich remarked, “I rest my case that he has made an impact.”
Paul, he said “has been right for 25 years” with his views “on the issue of money and the Federal Reserve.” Even Romney, whom Gingrich has been calling a “Massachusetts moderate” up and down South Carolina, got some praise. “Governor Romney, with whom I disagree on many issues, is nonetheless a good example of America,” Gingrich said. “He is hard-working. He has been very successful. . . . He did a terrific job at the Winter Olympics.”
Toward the end of his speech, Gingrich took care to remind the audience to keep focused on delivering him the nomination. “In order to carry out this great debate to rally the American people to reasserting their belief in America, to winning the election decisively this fall, to profoundly changing Washington starting on Day One — when, by the way, we abolish all the White House czars — to do that we need to build on this victory by going to Florida. I need your help in reaching out to people in Florida,” Gingrich said.