Newt's Trump card may not be enough in Nevada

Fri, Feb 3, 2012, 00:00

Newt Gingrich has swept into Nevada trailing far behind Mitt Romney in state polls and lacking much campaign organisation, but he can boast of a flashy new endorsement: Donald Trump will announce his support for Gingrich in Las Vegas, according to a senior campaign official.

That expected nod may mitigate the early impression of disarray in the Gingrich campaign in Nevada, evident as he hit the ground after a daunting defeat in the Florida primary and immediately became embroiled in a dust-up over a cancelled meeting with Nevada’s governor.

The Gingrich campaign’s planning has been in flux here, suggesting disorganisation, or perhaps the fact that the real reason he is focusing on the state, where Romney holds a substantial lead in polls, is to raise money.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has already contributed $10 million with his wife to a political action committee (PAC) supporting Mr Gingrich, was reportedly going to drop by a private event for him in Las Vegas yesterday.

The campaign has yet to announce any other public events in the state.

A fiery Rick Santorum, meanwhile, has urged Colorado Republicans in Denver to “reset this race”, ramping up efforts to cast himself as a more conservative alternative to Mr Romney and Mr Gingrich.

At a breakfast of Arapahoe County Republicans at Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, Mr Santorum wasted little time before attacking both men, saying he alone stood for Republican principles that would stand in stark contrast to President Barack Obama in November.

“You will not have to worry every day when you open up the paper: ‘Oh what did he say today? What planet are we going to colonise next?’” he said of Mr Gingrich’s recent vow to put a permanent base on the moon.

Mr Romney was next.

“Or, you will know also that when you open up that paper, he hasn’t changed his mind. That he stands true north,” he said, before repeating Jon Huntsman’s criticism of Mr Romney as a political weather vane.

Asked by reporters if he was conceding Nevada, which holds its caucuses tomorrow, Mr Gingrich said no, emphatically. “I think if you look at the event we just had, it doesn’t look like we’re giving up on anything,” he said.

The crowd of more than 150 at the Great Basin Brewing Co was enthusiastic, breaking into chants of “Newt! Newt!” as Mr Gingrich delivered his stump speech.

He began with a sharp response to comments that Mr Romney made earlier in the day, in which he said he would focus his policies on the middle class because the poor were taken care of by a safety net of government programmes.

“I am fed up with politicians of either party dividing Americans against each other,” Mr Gingrich said. “I am running to be the president of all the American people and I am concerned about all the American people.”

Mr Gingrich was also asked about Mr Romney’s comment that Mr Gingrich lost in Florida because voters were unhappy about his work for Freddie Mac, the government mortgage giant that many Republicans believe is responsible for the collapse of the housing market, an issue that will also play in Nevada.

Mr Romney had said: “I think his association over the last 15 years selling influence in Washington is a major reason why people are not comfortable with him becoming our nominee.”

Mr Gingrich said Mr Romney “owns a lot of stock in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae” and that the comment “shows remarkable ability to deny reality”.

It is a line of attack that Mr Gingrich developed in Florida, but it seemed to make little impression on voters, especially after Mr Romney pointed out, in a debate, that Mr Gingrich, too, had similar investments.

Mr Gingrich might well wish that the contest be a war of words in the news media.

He has almost none of the infrastructure and support from prominent state Republicans that Mr Romney does. This should allow him to build on his landslide victory in Nevada in 2008, when he took 51 per cent of the vote. – (New York Times service)