Sioux City, Iowa (CNN) – On his first stop of the day at an empty coffee shop, Newt Gingrich asked one of the patrons if they had any advice for the Republican presidential candidate who appears to be losing his grip on voters here.
After picking up a coffee with his wife Callista, Gingrich walked up to a handful of people standing around a table. "Any advice?"
"Just be yourself. Do what you do best. We're behind you 100 percent, sure," said the only person who answered the question.
"We're just going to stay positive and keep talking about ideas," Gingrich said to them. "But it is wild and wooly."
The latest CNN/Time/ORC International poll released Wednesday showed the once-thriving top tier presidential candidate slipping. But the former House speaker appeared to be banking on the undedicideds going to caucus Jan. 3 to deliver him a stronger finish than anticipated.
"I think everybody's trying to sort out what's going on," Gingrich told reporters. "This is not a time to send an amateur to Washington."
The former speaker continued to drive home that point as he made stops on his eight-day, 22-city bus tour through the Hawkeye State.
Gingrich prides himself on answering a lot of questions at every stop, and he asked each person whose hand he shook for their help when they caucus.
But he appeared to be pulling in smaller crowds than he has in recent days. There were fewer than 70 people at his Thursday morning townhall at the Sioux City convention center. Over the last two days he's pulled in crowds no larger than 200 at each location.
That's not insignificant, but compared to presidential rival former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney, who draws large crowds with people in overflow rooms, it's another indication the excitement is elsewhere.
The former speaker has tried to pick up ground in other ways. He's countered the millions spent on negative attack television ads by some opponents and third party groups by holding frequent telephone town halls with Iowans to clear up any distortions on his record. He said 32,000 people dialed into his last two tele-town halls and he planned to hold one every day except Sunday.
Last week Gingrich was downplaying his chances in Iowa saying he'd be comfortable coming in third place. Asked Thursday whether he would drop out if he came in fourth place, the former speaker said no.
A reporter followed up, "So there are more than three tickets out of Iowa?"
"Oh sure, I mean it depends on what happens, it depends what the margins are," Gingrich said. "Considering I'm more than 20 points ahead in some other states it would be fairly foolish not to stay in the race. It is a long way from here to picking the nominee."