by Kevin Allman
Earlier in the day, Gingrich's wife Callista visited Harriet Tubman Charter School in Algiers, and the two had taken time for Friday lunch at Galatoire's (Newt: crab-and-asparagus omelet with oysters Rockefeller; Callista: bouillabaisse) before hitting the more modest restaurant on S. Carrollton Ave. Gingrich canceled a scheduled appearance in Slidell following the New Orleans stop in favor of an hour at the Audubon Zoo, but he was still planning a 6 p.m. at the Covington trailhead — which, he noted, has "the largest Ronald Reagan statue in the world."
The Gingriches entered and shook hands with College Inn owner John Blancher and his father while the sound system pumped out swamp pop ("Don't Take It So Hard" by Snooks Eaglin). Then Gingrich, wearing a string of green St. Patrick's beads, laid out his New Orleans bona fides, saying the trip "reminds us of the three years of living on Lowerline (Street)." Gingrich, of course, attended Tulane University from 1966-1970, earning a Ph.D in history, though he was then married to his first wife, Jackie.
(More under the jump, including video from the event... )
"I am the one candidate who represents the Reagan approach," he told the crowd, going into a lengthy discussion of Chile's Social Security-style system (individual savings accounts), before moving on to energy, the platform plank he's tried to stake out for himself. The answer, of course: More drilling and more exploration, "so no future president ever bows to a Saudi king."
Gingrich spent much of his speech on the attack against President Barack Obama, his administration and its policies, calling Obama "President Algae" for his support of biofuels and ridiculing Obama for saying there was no silver bullet to solve our energy dependence. "There is no silver bullet? Baloney," Gingrich said. "There is a silver bullet: Drilling." The candidate also answered a question from a Jesuit High School graduating senior who was concerned about being able to pay for college (Gingrich reminded him that some people do just fine with two years of college, or none at all). And for people who wanted to know how he could guarantee $2.50/gallon gasoline, Gingrich urged them to visit his website, where he had posted a 30-minute video that he said should answer all their questions.
Then it was time for a short meet-and-greet with Gingrich and his wife (who didn't say a word throughout, but stood at his side with a charmed gaze that managed to be both loving and impressed with his brainpower).
Louisiana — which is normally not a factor in the GOP primary — has taken on new importance this year with the undecided field, which accounts for both Gingrich's whistle-stops across the state and former Sen. Rick Santorum's appearance in Lafayette Tuesday night. At the Gingrich event, word was that Santorum would be coming to New Orleans to attend church this Sunday — it's not on Santorum's official calendar, but Sunday, Mar. 18 is a blank page.