ABC News’ Russell Goldman and Meg Fowler report:
SALISBURY, Maryland — Newt Gingrich is a former Speaker of the House and current Republican presidential candidate, but at the start of his career, he told students at Salisbury University, “I wanted to be a zoo director.”
Gingrich’s presidential campaign has been on a losing streak — he hasn’t won a state primary since South Carolina in January — but that didn’t stop him from stopping by the Salisbury zoo today. “I have a passion for dropping by zoos whenever I can,” he said.
Followers of Gingrich on Twitter got some live commentary of his visit.
“Salisbury zoo is a very nice local zoo-cotton topped tamarins are fascinating -on way to salisbury state town hall at 3,” he tweeted at 2:23 p.m.
“Just heard red wolves howling in response to local hospital siren-four wolves make quite a noise-fascinating-red wolves very endangered,” he tweeted a minute later.
“If you go to the shore you should stop in salisbury to see the zoo–t is worth the stop,” he gushed soon after.
“I just stopped by your zoo, which is actually one of the nicer municipal zoos in the country,” Gingrich said in Salisbury. “We actually had a great experience, because we were there when the hospital whistle went off, and we happened to be at the red wolf exhibit and the four wolves promptly began answering the hospital whistle. I had never before seen four wolves all howling, so it was very, it was cool. So the zoo was very nice and I commend it to all of you and I just sent out a tweet recommending people on the way to the shore stop by and go to the zoo.
“And they showed me a picture. I was there back in 1998.”
Following his long-held passion, Gingrich has made several stops at menageries along the campaign trail.
On February 14, he made a trip to the San Diego zoo, which was recorded by a campaign staffer for a post on Facebook. In a statement he made in front of an elephants’ enclosure, he said his trip to the San Diego zoo was “kind of my Valentine’s present to me.”
“Since I do love zoos, I’m glad to be here. This is sort of part of my Valentine’s Day is I get to come hang out with elephants for a while and other kinds of animals,” Gingrich said before launching into criticisms of the federal budget approved by President Obama. “It may be appropriate for a Republican to have an elephant right behind me.”
A couple of weeks ago, he also visited the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, where a supporter at the flamingo exhibit asked Gingrich to “Please save our country.”
He also toured the elephant exhibit with the Audubon Zoo director and ended his visit at the moving T-rex and triceratops dinosaur statues.
“This is why I’m not afraid of taking on Washington. After taking on dinosaurs, they aren’t scary,” Gingrich said.
If Gingrich had followed his childhood interest in animals, we might not see him in politics today.
In the 2009 book co-authored with his daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, “5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours,” Gingrich wrote, ”As a young man, I planned on becoming a zoo director or a vertebrate paleontologist.”
He went on to describe an experience seeing a World War II battlefield as the reason he decided to go into public office instead.
In a later chapter, he describes his first act of public service as a childhood visit to the Harrisburg, Pa. City Council to recommend that the city establish a zoo. While the city did not get one, Gingrich wrote he “was hooked on both zoos and citizenship from that point on.”