Newt Gingrich speaks to about 500 in Oklahoma City
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pledged Monday to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling as well as drilling on federal lands and in Alaska and promised on the first day to take action to undo much of what the president has done the past three years.
His comments were met by cheers and applause in this oil- and natural gas-rich state, where President Barack Obama, a Democrat, failed to win any of Oklahoma's 77 counties four years ago.
Gingrich said he would remove obstacles to encourage more domestic drilling so the United States would reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
“I want the United States to be so energy independent that no future president” ever bows before another country's ruler, he said.
Gingrich said he would approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, through Oklahoma to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The Obama administration last month rejected the project, which Gingrich said would bring gasoline prices down to $2 to $2.50 a gallon (they are projected to reach $4 before summer), as well as produce more U.S. jobs and make America more energy independent. Lowering gasoline prices to those levels would mean a savings of about $100 a month for the average American family.
Gingrich, a former college history professor who was elected in 1978 to the U.S. House from Georgia and served as speaker from 1994-98, spoke to an estimated crowd of 500 at a packed Jim Thorpe Association and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. About 3,500 attended a rally earlier in the day for Gingrich on the Oral Roberts University campus in Tulsa.
March 6 primary
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Gingrich asked those attending the free rally to consider voting for him March 6 in Oklahoma's presidential primary.
“A victory in Oklahoma would be a huge breakthrough for us,” he said.
Gingrich said he would repeal the national health care bill, which was pushed by the president and is unpopular in Oklahoma. About 65 percent of Oklahomans voted in 2010 for a measure that would allow them to opt out of the national health care law.
Gingrich took aim mostly at Obama during his 48-minute speech. He said he had the best leadership skills of all the contenders and had the boldest ideas among his GOP contenders.
“This will be the most important election in your lifetime because a second term by Barack Obama would be an unqualified disaster,” he said.
Gingrich, who appeared in Oklahoma in 2006 to speak to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, planned to spend the night in Oklahoma City and was scheduled to speak to legislators Tuesday in the House of Representatives chambers in the state
‘War against religion'
Gingrich accused Obama of taking stands against various religions, such as his administration's decision that would have many violate their religious dictates by providing emergency contraceptives under a federal rule requiring most health plans to cover contraception.
Gingrich said he would repeal what he sees as anti-religious acts of the Obama administration on his first day as president.
Gingrich questioned why the Obama administration was reluctant to talk about what motivated a suspected terrorist from Morocco, who was arrested last week by FBI agents on suspicion of plotting to blow up the U.S. Capitol.
Gingrich said the president wants to weaken the United States, cut aid to Israel for its anti-ballistic missile defense and refuses to take seriously Iran, which is feared to be developing atomic bomb research.
Many in the crowd said they were Gingrich supporters; others said they were unsure of who to vote for next month but came to listen to the former U.S. House speaker.
“I believe that this is the candidate on either side with a positive view of America,” said Marc Mears, of Oklahoma City. “He is the only guy in the whole group who can say, ‘I've done it before.'”
Gingrich has shown he is a leader, said Mears, who will probably vote for Gingrich because he believes in him and not because he thinks he can win.
“We've been short of leadership in Washington for a long time,” he said.