WINDHAM — The Newt Gingrich surge hit Windham last night.
The former House speaker from Georgia drew an estimated crowd of 1,000 people to Windham High, according to both organizers and police.
The line was backed up out the front doors a half hour before Gingrich spoke. Members of the Southern New Hampshire 9.12 liberty group, who hosted the event, had to set up the cafeteria so the overflow crowd could watch his presentation from the packed school theater.
Polling in the single digits both nationally and in New Hampshire GOP primary field over the summer, Gingrich has seen his numbers rise to the top as other candidates have faltered in recent weeks.
"I must say between this room and the overflow crowd, this is a very impressive turnout," Gingrich told the audience.
Gingrich opened by thanking his chief rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, for Romney's public comments yesterday that it is very important not to weaken any of the candidates who might beat President Obama and he would rather lose than engage in outrageous attacks on one of his Republican competitors.
Gingrich said the campaign has begun, for the first time, to really degenerate, particularly in ads airing in Iowa.
"I want to thank him for taking that position," Gingrich said. "I agree with him. I think what we're about is too important to weaken anybody who might defeat Barack Obama and to give Barack Obama ammunition that he shouldn't have."
Gingrich said he would release a letter today to his staff, consultants and surrogate campaigners indicating his determination to run "a positive campaign."
He also said he would publicly disown any so-called super political action committee engaging in negative campaigning on his behalf and encourage people to withhold contributions to them.
Gingrich described the 2012 election as the most important facing the nation since 1860.
"The choice of a president of the United States, at a time of genuine troubles, isn't a game," Gingrich said. "It isn't who can hire the meanest, nastiest, most creative consultant. It is a fundamental choice about who we think can provide the solutions that bring us together as a nation."
Gingrich said he will do everything he can to make the campaign positive. "I didn't run to be a normal politician," Gingrich said. "I ran as a citizen in order to bring a citizen presidency, with a citizen movement, so that together we will in fact give our children, grandchildren, give the young people here tonight, a freer, safer and more prosperous country."
Fielding questions from members of Southern New Hampshire 9.12 and the audience, Gingrich stuck to smaller government themes that dominate his message.
He said he would ask Congress to repeal healthcare reforms passed under Obama the day he is sworn as president, that he would support a flat tax, reform the Environmental Protection Agency so it is friendly to business and protect American sovereignty from actions of the United Nations and other nations.
"You will not see me bowing to a Saudi king," Gingrich said.
Gingrich intends to reform government through 100 to 200 executive orders when he takes office as president.
"About the time President Obama lands back in Chicago, we will have changed 40 percent of his government," Gingrich said.
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