SALEM, N.H. — Newt Gingrich warned voters not to "Mass up" the Republican nomination at a Town Hall meeting last night.
He spoke to hundreds of voters at Salem High School last night, taking questions from the crowd. He praised the low taxes and budget cuts in New Hampshire, but had harsh words for both the Massachusetts government and a former governor of Massachusetts.
"There's a huge difference between a Massachusetts moderate who increased taxes and a genuine Reagan conservative who fought for tax cuts," he said. "I'm dramatically more conservative than Mitt Romney. I'm prepared to insist on tax cuts and I will balance the budget within a few years. I intend to change Washington."
He had some harsh words for Massachusetts, criticizing the state for higher taxes and a bigger government as compared to New Hampshire. He asked for a show of hands from people who have moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and applauded them for their good decision.
Gingrich said voters have a choice and need to decide which candidate they believe can defeat Obama and represent conservative values in Washington.
"I believe I can defeat Obama in a debate decisively," he said. "With no disrespect to my competitors, I don't believe a one of them can do it."
Gingrich also discussed his affinity for Reagan economics, annoyance with environmentalist concerns about energy development and ideas for education reform.
The crowd responded to Gingrich with cheers and laughter at his jokes. His many supporters said Gingrich is the best candidate for the job, including campaign volunteer Tim Peirce, 44, of Derry.
"When I listen to the candidates, I hear real substantive ideas from Newt that come out of his experience in Washington," he said. "I feel like Newt's electable. His numbers are down here, but I don't concern myself with polls. Ron Paul could have 70 percent in a poll, but he's not going to be elected nationally. Rick Perry could be down as low as 9 percent and he's still electable. But looking at overall electability and conservative values, Gingrich is the best."
Tom Cody, 55, of Andover, Mass. said he crossed the border to support Gingrich and didn't know about the night's Massachusetts theme.
"I'm not offended," he said, "Sometimes I wonder why I live in Massachusetts. Living there you don't get a chance to see many conservatives come around. Part of the issue is Massachusetts people have moved to Southern New Hampshire and there's been a dilution of the conservative voice in New Hampshire."
But mixed in among the die-hard Gingrich supporters were some residents who remained undecided about which candidate they'd like to support. Susan Flagg, 72, of Salem said she and her husband have gone to see each of the Republican candidates in turn.
"I'm still making up my mind," she said. "I don't think there's much of a choice though. I think Gingrich is too much of an inside politician. I don't think there would be much change. Probably Romney would be better. He's a politician but he's never been in Washington and I think his business mind is good. I think he would be an all-right president and he could probably beat Obama."
Barry Rogers, 63, of Plaistow said he's also undecided and an independent.
"I've seen Huntsman, Ron Paul, Santorum, Newt tonight and Romney tomorrow," he said. "I'm making the rounds. I think the overall slate of candidates is weak, but out of all of them I like Huntsman. I think Gingrich is one of the more interesting candidates though. He speaks his mind and stirs things up."
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