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Gingrich Draws Enthusiastic Crowds In Florida


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

The Republican presidential candidates continue their barnstorming in Florida ahead of that state's Tuesday primary. Newt Gingrich is leading the Florida polls. Mitt Romney is in second place right now. Both offered their own prebuttals to the president's State of the Union message.

And late last night, Newt Gingrich released a second contract for the work he did with mortgage giant Freddie Mac. It's from 1999. And that contract stipulated that he was to be paid $25,000 a month not to lobby but to supply advice and services to Freddie Mac's chief lobbyist. We have two reports, starting with NPR's Brian Naylor, who is with the Gingrich campaign.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Newt Gingrich drew large and enthusiastic crowds yesterday in a series of stops along Florida's Gulf Coast, several thousand attending events at an airport hanger in Sarasota and the town square in Naples. Gingrich said the president's view of the state of the union varies greatly from his.

NEWT GINGRICH: You always have to wonder when Obama speaks which country he thinks he's talking about.


NAYLOR: Gingrich attacked the president for high gas prices. And in a pitch aimed at Florida's Cuban Americans, he accused the president of supporting the Arab Spring but not a change in regimes closer to home.

GINGRICH: If he would just look south, Cuba is vastly closer than Tunisia and Libya and Egypt. And if we're going to have a spring, I say let's have a Cuban spring and let's have freedom in Cuba.


NAYLOR: And feeding off the crowd's energy, the former speaker showed a sense of timing worthy of a stand-up comic.

GINGRICH: One of the Reagan slogans in 1984 was leadership that's working. Doesn't strike me that Obama can use that one.


GINGRICH: A friend of mine said he has shifted from yes we can to why we couldn't.


NAYLOR: While focusing most of his attacks on the man he hopes to face in November, Gingrich aimed a few jabs at GOP rival Romney yesterday. He said Romney will probably have $13 million in TV ads, while he, Gingrich, will have people power.

But Gingrich isn't doing too bad in the money chase either. The campaign says it raised more than $2 million since Gingrich's win in South Carolina last Saturday. That's on top of the $5 million donation a superPAC backing Gingrich received earlier this week.

Brian Naylor, NPR News with the Gingrich campaign in Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.