HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — While the other candidates were campaigning in Super Tuesday states, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich spent his afternoon in Huntsville, Ala., giving a speech at Space Camp before returning to Atlanta for his primary party. Alabama’s primary isn’t until next week.
Standing below a massive rocket hanging from the ceiling and surrounded by astronaut memorabilia, including a lunar lander, Gingrich made the case for his candidacy — hope in American exceptionalism and big ideas that inspire American children.
“I believe in a future for these young people, that is dynamic and exciting and in which what we’re in today is a launching pad — this isn’t the end state for the space program, this is the launching pad for the next phase of excitement and invention,” Gingrich said.
While the campaign told ABC News Gingrich’s visit to the rocket center was nothing out of the ordinary, in past primaries Gingrich has stayed within the states up for grabs on the day of voting.
The campaign for the GOP presidential nomination has largely come down to a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Gingrich is expected to win his home state of Georgia by a large margin but is considered a noncontender in other states. The Gingrich campaign said it hoped for a decent finish in Tennessee and Oklahoma.
Gingrich’s press secretary R.C. Hammond insisted the space-related stop today was not a publicity move as Gingrich doubled down with a space exploration themed speech Tuesday, playing on his proposal of a moon base by his second presidential term. Gingrich was parodied on “Saturday Night Live” for that idea.
“One of things I got lampooned for, I got on “Saturday Night Live,” I got in a little bit of an argument with Romney and Santorum, is I said we should have a very aggressive space program. It was fascinating, because I was really thinking about the young people here,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich hit Romney for saying that if someone approached him with ideas like Gingrich’s he would have fired him. Gingrich said Romney would have fired a number of historical innovators.
“I realize he said likes firing people, you know,” Gingrich said. “He would have fired Christopher Columbus, he would have fired John F. Kennedy, when Henry Ford walked in and said, ‘Hey I have this idea. Why don’t we build mass produced cars,’ clearly impractical, fire him. When the Wright Brothers dropped by and said ‘we’re working on flying,’ clearly irresponsible, fire em,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich told the crowd that there were “visionaries” and people who “manage the decay,” a term Gingrich often uses for Romney.
“They’re not the same business and I’m very proud to be a visionary. Clearly a visionary doesn’t mean being impractical,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said he would carry Georgia and do better than expected in “a number of other states.”
“So I think for the third time, we are going to come bouncing back. And I suspect in another two or three weeks we’ll have a clear choice,” Gingrich said.