Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich hit the First Coast on Thursday to promote the candidacy of Mitt Romney, the man who beat him for the Republican presidential nomination.
Gingrich spoke to volunteers at the Republican headquarters in Jacksonville, encouraging them to continue to push for the former governor of Massachusetts and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, the favorite to emerge in the August primary to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
Saying it was the most important election since Abraham Lincolns triumph in 1860, Gingrich said the stakes were high in November.
Four more years of Obama will wreck the country, Gingrich said.
The former congressional leader said that the Sunshine State would be in the political front line in November.
We have to win the White House and we have to win the Senate, Gingrich said. Florida plays a major role with both. ... No Republican is going to win the presidency without carrying Florida.
Gingrich also said Romney and Mack need to do well on the First Coast.
For a Republican to carry Florida, they have to carry Duval County by a large margin, Gingrich insisted.
Slamming President Barack Obama, Gingrich said the Democrat in the White House is better at making excuses than running the nation. Obamas gone from yes we can to why we couldnt, Gingrich said.
Gingrich insisted that Romney would do a better job than Obama on national security and the economy -- though he insisted that the presumptive Republican candidate had taken a page from his playbook.
Governor Romney has a plan for the economy, Gingrich said. I think he frankly got it from our campaign.
Im an old teacher, Gingrich added. If I can get you to imitate, Im pretty happy.
Ripping Obama as a liar over whether the federal health-care plan is a tax, Gingrich warned Republicans they will face a dirty fight in the election.
They cant win if they tell the truth, Gingrich said. From the Democratic convention on, we are going to drown in liberal mud.
Despite their bitter fight for the Republican nomination, the Romney team had good reason to have Gingrich rally the base in Jacksonville.
After winning the South Carolina primary, Gingrich was riding high going into Florida, but Romney went on the attack. Romney took 46 percent while Gingrich finished second with 32 percent in the Sunshine States primary at the end of January. While Romney carried Duval County, Gingrich did well on the First Coast, finishing ahead of the former Massachusetts governor in Baker, Clay and Nassau counties.
Introducing Gingrich, Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), noted that it was a really tough primary between Romney and the former congressional leader.
Still, party unity was clearly on Gingrichs mind on Thursday and he campaigned for Mack as well as Romney.
Gingrich said electing Mack over Nelson is important. Noting that Rasmussen Reports released a poll earlier in the week showing Mack up on Nelson by 9 percent, Gingrich said he is not surprised because, he insists, Floridians are finally realizing that the Democratic incumbent is a liberal.
Its beginning to sink into Floridians that Bill Nelson is a Barack Obama Democrat, Gingrich said.
The crowd, which included many supporters of Gingrichs presidential bid, cheered the speaker numerous times and chanted his name.
Curry praised the former congressional leader and insisted that Gingrich remains an important Republican leader despite losing out to Romney in the primaries.
This is the type of person we need in the party, an idea person, Curry said.
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