Des Moines , IA -- Shortly after seeing his poll numbers climb last week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich presented a revised edition of his campaign for the presidential nomination from a Des Moines funeral home that now serves as headquarters for the Iowa Republican Party.
The centerpiece of his talk was a presentation of his 21st Century Contract with America, which includes a list of detailed actions Gingrich promises to take if he wins the party's nomination.
The gathering, hosted by the Conservative Club of Des Moines, was the first of several anticipated forums the club plans to convene to "better inform conservatives" about the Republican candidates in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucuses.
Gingrich began by asking attendees by a show of hands whether they felt, as he does, that the country is "on the wrong track," that it will take an "enormous citizen effort" to reverse its course, and that there is a laundry list of "special interest groups who will do everything in their power to work against the kind of change needed in Washington." Nearly everyone kept their hands up for all three questions.
With the first 40 minutes of his presentation lacking the sort of exaggerated rhetoric Iowans are accustomed to hearing this campaign season, Gingrich repeated several times that his campaign for president is about "solutions to the major issues facing America, as opposed to 30 second sound bites."
Contract with America 2.0 comprises four parts.
First, he described legislative proposals to shift America back to job creation, prosperity, freedom and safety.
Second, he reiterated a "First Day" project of Executive Orders to be signed on Inauguration Day to transform the way the Executive Branch works. Gingrich is currently committed to signing four orders which include: eliminating the 39 White House "Czar" positions created during the current administration; reauthorizing President Ronald Reagan's policy - also known as the "Mexico City Policy," which keeps tax payer dollars from being used to fund or promote abortions in foreign countries; restoring the "Conscience Clause Protections" for healthcare workers; and implementing a policy whereby the United State respects each sovereign nation's choice of its capital. The latter is a nod to Israel, which Gingrich says the United States discriminates against in this regard.
Third, he would create a training program for the transition team and the appointees who will lead the shift "back to Constitutional and limited government."
Finally, he promised a system of citizen involvement to "help sustain grassroots support for change and help implement the change through 2021."
According to Gingrich, his Contract with America Redux came about during a meeting with ministers in Simi Valley, CA prior to the September 7 Republican debate at the Reagan Library. He said he is hoping this updated version inspires the same sense of urgency and mandate the 1994 version did, which covered issues such as welfare reform and a balanced budget law.
Gingrich said the group of California ministers were unsure about his current campaign platform and asked for a clearer picture of his policy positions and a comprehensive list of how the candidate's message can be most easily circulated to interested voters.
In addition to emphasizing his nearly 40 years of political experience and longstanding support for religious and conservative values, Gingrich offered a proposal to "save Medicaid and Social Security" by giving Americans the choice of a tax credit or the ability to deduct the value of their health insurance up to a certain amount and by allowing Americans to purchase insurance across state lines, increasing price competition in the industry.
Calling the President "the best Food Stamp President ever," Gingrich didn't hesitate to take further jabs at Obama by saying that he (Gingrich) "won't need to rely on Timothy Geithner (U.S. Treasury Secretary) or Larry Summers (former Director of the White House United States National Economic Council) for counsel when I am president," and said "the best economic advisor I'll have is me." This statement seemed to resonate with the audience members.
"Americans are starting to realize now that it's not such a great thing to put a neophyte in the White House," he remarked.
Adding to his White House bucket list, he said that a Gingrich Administration would: abolish the Estate Tax; repeal the Dodd-Frank Bill which he said has "killed small banks and small businesses"; eliminate the capital gains tax, lower the corporate tax to 12.5% and allow businesses to expense 100% of all new capital equipment purchases.
Citing several examples of where he believes "radical environmentalists" have acted in direct opposition to what he called "normal American life," the energized Gingrich said it would be his priority to rename and reform the Environmental Protection Agency. He thinks "Environmental Solutions Agency" has a nice ring to it.
Electing to zero in on a specific health care initiative, instead of hammering home his strategy to repeal and reform President Obama's Affordable Care Act of 2010, Gingrich suggested that his administration would investment heavily in the study of the human brain in order to offset the human impact and financial costs that patients, caregivers and families face when a member of their family is diagnosed with a disease such as Alzheimer's or Autism. According to his campaign website, "medical breakthroughs in these areas could save the federal government over $20 trillion over the next 40 years."
The candidate's concluding remarks about dismantling the 9th District Federal Appeals Court and the removal of "activist judges," were warmly received, despite the fact that federal judges are appointed for life and can only be removed for misconduct. So was his expressed desire to "restore the proper role of the US Supreme Court," referring with amusement to Justice (Anthony) Kennedy as "a one man Constitutional Convention."
"He's just so smart and experienced," said attendee Linda Rudolph, as Gingrich posed for pictures. "If I had it my way I would love to see a Lincoln-style 'Team of Rivals' situation where all the Republican contenders serve the next Republican administration in some capacity."
Where she would appoint the other contenders? "Well, Palin (who has yet to declare herself a candidate) would be in charge of Energy, " Rudolph proposed. "Commerce Secretary would be Mitt Romney or (Herman) Cain. Homeland Security would be Perry, and Santorum would handle Foreign Affairs."
Her husband, Ernie Rudolph, while not endorsing his wife's mock appointees, said he would have Texas Representative Ron Paul chair the Federal Reserve, a position Texas Governor and GOP candidate Rick Perry has also taken.
Would he endorse Paul's stances on foreign policy? "Oh no," he chuckled.
It seems the "Team of Rivals" concept is on a lot of minds, including that of the candidate's daughter, Jackie Cushman, who attended the event.
Responding to questions about her father's low poll numbers, fundraising struggles and the overall lack of political and intellectual maturity exhibited by the field of candidates thus far, she explained, "This is going to take time. But as you saw tonight, Dad has a full range of understanding on the issues and the complexities of them."
Before departing the candidate's daughter made a point of mentioning that several of the other GOP candidates have revealed publicly that Gingrich would make an ideal vice president. Meanwhile, at the September 22 Fox News/Google Republican Presidential debate in Florida, Gingrich alluded to a preference for Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
As candidates jockey for pole position in the race for credibility in the eyes of conservative and Tea Party voters, discussing vice presidential at this stage seems premature. Just how many Gingrich supporters remain from the glory days of the mid-'90s remains unclear, as the names and political situation have changed significantly in the decade since he was in elected office. Time will tell whether these newly branded ideas can breathe life into the campaign the way the Iowa Republican Party has done for an old funeral home in Des Moines.