Politics & Policy

Newt’s Night

The Gingrichs sign books after the dinner.

Des Moines, Iowa — At the Reagan dinner, it was Newt Gingrich’s night.

With a two months to go until the Iowa caucuses are held, Gingrich and fellow candidates Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum each gave ten minute speeches to the hundreds of Iowa Republicans gathered.

Early on in his speech, Gingrich took time to laud his rivals.  He complimented Paul for his focus on the Federal Reserve, and a strong dollar. He called Perry his “mentor” on tenth amendment issues, and said he looked forward to debating him on whose flat tax plan was better.  He praised Bachmann for her bill to repeal Obamacare, and Santorum for his focus on Syria and Iran.

“We only have one opponent,” Gingrich said. “That’s Barack Obama.”

He went on to detail what he would do as the GOP nominee, including challenging President Obama to seven Lincoln-Douglas style debates with no moderators. Gingrich made one concession: Obama could use a teleprompter if he wanted.

“If the president does not agree,” Gingrich said in reference to the debates, “I will announce that from that day forward for the rest of the campaign, the White House will be my scheduler” and he would follow Obama wherever he goes, just as Lincoln had followed Douglas for a time. That drew a partial standing ovation from the crowd – a rare show of enthusiasm from a low-energy crowd.

In his speech, Perry joked that he was on “operation occupy the White House,” and stressed his anti-Washington message and his new tax plan.  “The president talks about winning the future. But you can’t win the future by selling off the future,” he said.  And he branded himself as the candidate willing to tackle the tough spending cuts: “I’ll show the courage to reform entitlements. Matter of fact, I laid out a plan last week that does just that.”

Bachmann earned applause for stressing a “no compromise” theme including “that our nominee will be an individual who will stand strong and make sure there is no compromise [on] repealing Obamacare 100 percent.” Paul talked about his plan to ax $1 trillion in spending, and his foreign policy.  Santorum focused on his new plan to strengthen families and marriages, noting that while other candidates had introduced economic plans, he was the only one to have released a culture-oriented plan.

So is it Gingrich’s time in Iowa? Lynn Kuhn, a landscape architect from Iowa and a year-long Gingrich supporter, says she’s hearing from fellow Iowans that they’re giving him another look.

“I’ll use my husband as an example,” Kuhn says. “He’d been … bouncing around with different candidates and … landed on Newt because he’s so consistent, he hangs in there where the others kind of come and go. “

And tonight’s dinner did nothing to hurt that possible burgeoning momentum.

“Let’s be honest,” she says. “He won the night.”

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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