Local Politics

Gingrich campaigns in Raleigh

Newt Gingrich returns to North Carolina Monday in his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination. He will speak to community leaders and high school students.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Newt Gingrich returns to North Carolina Monday in his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination.

Gingrich, a former Georgia congressman and U.S. House speaker, met with state community leaders at the Shanahan Law Group on Falls of Neuse Road in Raleigh Monday morning. Next, he went to Cafe Luna, 135 E. Hargett St., for a luncheon.

Finally, Gingrich will speak to students at Broughton High School Monday afternoon.

The visit comes a day after Gingrich said his campaign has nearly $4.5 million in debt and that he expects rival Mitt Romney to win the GOP nomination. Gingrich said he is staying in the race to influence the party's platform.

A WRAL News Poll in late March showed Gingrich running a distant third in North Carolina, with 18 percent support among likely Republican voters. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum was in the lead at 34 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 26 percent.

Gingrich has said he plans to use his Southern roots and his ties to the state to appeal to North Carolina voters. His oldest daughter attended Davidson College and lived in Greensboro.

Gingrich said during a campaign stop in Raleigh last week that North Carolina is "very much in play" for him and other candidates if Santorum wins the April 24 primary in his home state of Pennsylvania. Gingrich said his strategy is for him and other candidates to keep Romney from getting a majority of delegates and force a vote at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.

Fifty-five delegates are up for grabs in North Carolina's primary on May 8. They will be awarded proportionally, based on the percentage of votes to each candidate.

Whoever the eventual nominee is, Gingrich said Republicans would rally to defeat President Barack Obama in the fall elections.

"The morning this (primary campaign) is over, whoever the nominee is, and the choice is clearly Obama and the Republican and the issue becomes Obama's record, you'll see the Republican candidate rise very dramatically," he said.

North Carolina could play a key role in that effort, Gingrich said.

"Obama understands that if he can't carry Virginia and North Carolina, he might not get elected," he said.