Newt Gingrich didn’t make it to Tampa, but his improbable, unpredictable and — yes — grandiose presidential bid produced some of the most memorable campaign moments I’ve ever witnessed.
So with Gingrich finishing his long farewell, we took a look back at the high — and low — points of his campaign and compiled this video: the greatest hits of the Gingrich campaign.
If I had to pick one moment above all, it would be the speech Gingrich made on Florida’s Space Coast just days after his stunning double-digit victory in the South Carolina primary.
The context is important: Gingrich’s campaign had just come back from the dead for the second time and was threatening to knock Mitt Romney out of the race. Gingrich took the stage before a packed, standing-room only crowd at the largest indoor arena on the Space Coast, but instead of delivering a rah-rah stump speech, Gingrich calmly announced he was going to talk about space. And that’s when Gingrich, a man often attacked for his grandiosity, made perhaps the most grandiose promise ever made by a front-running presidential candidate.
“By the end of my second term,” Gingrich announced, pausing to let that thought sink in, “we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.”
He even speculated on what it would take for the moon colony to achieve statehood and, of course, after the speech was asked if the moon colony became a state, when would it hold its primary? The answer: it would be a late primary.
Gingrich began his campaign by chastising the news media for trying to goad the GOP contenders into a fight and promising that he would not attack his fellow Republicans.
“I for one, and I hope all of my friends up here, are going to repudiate every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other,” he said during a September NBC/Politico debate at the Reagan library.
That didn’t last. After enduring an onslaught of brutally negative ads from Romney and his supporters, Gingrich started hurling some of the harshest attacks ever been seen in presidential primary. Some of the nastiest attacks came the very next day after his moon speech at an event in Mount Dora, Florida, where Gingrich used some of the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement to hit Romney.
“We are not going to defeat Barack Obama with some guy who has Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island accounts, owns shares of Goldman Sachs while it forecloses on Florida and himself a stockholder in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while he thinks the rest of us are too stupid to put the dots together to figure out what this is all about,” Gingrich said in what some in the Romney campaign called his Occupy Mount Dora Speech.
Other high points of the Gingrich campaign came in back-to-back debates in South Carolina when Gingrich aimed his fire at the debate moderators Juan Williams of Fox News and John King of CNN.
In both debates, as Gingrich scolded Williams and King, the crowds leapt to their feet to give him a standing ovation. A standing ovation is something I have never seen in the middle of a presidential debate, and it happened twice in one week to Newt Gingrich.