Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was subdued in his speech to conservatives at the PA Leadership Conference Saturday afternoon. Runners at the back of a race with no hope of winning have a perspective that fosters the contemplative. GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich pauses during his sppech at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in East Pennsboro Twp. JOE HERMITT, The Patriot-News Results of a straw poll at the right-wing confab had been released before Gingrich took the stage. Rick Santorum was the clear favorite with 147 votes, with Mitt Romney placing a strong second with 91. Gingrich, experienced politician that he is, shifted to a soft-shoe, stand-up, give-the-crowd-a-groan routine. President Barack Obama, he said, can’t recognize the new technology that allows drillers to extract oil from shale because it’s against the liberal rules.
“If you can afford gasoline, you don’t have to buy a Volt,” said Gingrich. He told the audience he had predicted Chevy’s electric car would be difficult to sell “for sociological reasons.” “You can’t put a gun rack in a Volt,” he said to laughter. But, he added, it turns out a man in Georgia who owns a Volt put a gun rack in the trunk. “Okay, but where does the deer go?” asked Gingrich. It was not the stuff that wins elections — at least not one’s own.
Gingrich was sparing in his criticism of Santorum and Romney, sticking for the most part to a few polite and well-worn one-liners at the beginning and the end. Gingrich focused instead on Obama and the decision to be made in November. “A re-elected Barack Obama will be a nightmare,” he said, who would “impose a Chicago-style machine” on the country. Gingrich spoke leisurely and at length about energy policy, saying “I’d like to run a major part of the campaign this fall on energy.” He didn’t specifically say it would be his own campaign in November, but he offered his strategy for attacking the president where he currently may be weakest: gas prices and energy policy.
Gingrich said, the key to a successful conservative campaign is to “pick fights that are the right principle but also the right solution.” For Gingrich in the election this November, that’s energy. “You find a truth so obvious the (opposition) ads don’t work,” he said. “You can’t run enough ads to convince people gas is cheaper” than when Obama took office. Cheap gas, he said, is good in every way “unless you’re a Sierra Club fanatic.”