Peachtree City, Georgia (CNN) – Newt Gingrich rallied Friday night in Georgia, where his 20-year congressional career began and where the candidate suggested his presidential prospects could end.
"I would hope to win here and I think, given the years that I spent both helping represent the state in Congress but also helping grow the Republican Party, I think I have some reasonably good likelihood of winning here," said Gingrich, who will make three campaign stops in metro Atlanta Saturday.
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After hedging his prospects here a bit, Gingrich told reporters that it's "very important" he win the state he lived in for years, just like his Republican presidential rivals are expected to do so in their respective states.
"Well it's very crucial," Gingrich said of securing a Georgia primary win. "You know, how crucial is it for Mitt Romney to win Michigan and how crucial is it going to be for [Rick] Santorum to win Pennsylvania?"
The former House speaker is seen as limping along after a number of losses and what some see as the surprising surge of another conservative in the race, Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania. Gingrich, in need of a game-changer, is looking to the Peach State to help resurrect his candidacy.
Georgia is one of 10 nominating contests up for grabs March 6 and also has the most delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. After this two-day visit he'll return later this month for a bus tour with fellow Georgian and former presidential candidate Herman Cain.
Gingrich told hundreds who came to his first Georgia rally at an airport hangar that the race for the Republican nomination is far from over and they shouldn't settle for the presumed front-runner, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor with family ties to Michigan.
"In my case it's not a speech, it's not talking points, it's not what my consultants gave me, it's not just some random idea, I actually know this can be done and I am prepared to commit to you that we will get it done if you will help us get to the nomination," he said, adding later, "I think it's pretty hard to argue over the last few days that [Romney] is 'Mr. Inevitable.'"
Gingrich took a dig at rivals Romney and Santorum for bowing out of a CNN debate in Georgia that was scheduled for March 1. Romney said he would be campaigning elsewhere and that resulted in Santorum and Ron Paul cancelling as well, but Gingrich suggested they were too "chicken" to debate him and compete for delegates here.
To drive home the point, one person wearing a Romney t-shirt and another in a Santorum t-shirt were dressed up in chicken costumes. They were clearly sanctioned by the campaign because they stood on stage before Gingrich arrived, no one tried to remove them, and Gingrich later mentioned them in his speech.
The longtime congressman said he is used to close races and talked about the rollercoaster nature of the presidential race.
"We'll see in the next few weeks how Mr. Santorum does but the fact is I am the only candidate in this race who has stood nose-to-nose with presidents of both parties and not flinched," he said to the Fayette County crowd.
On stage Gingrich was surrounded by family, including his wife Callista, daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman, her husband and two young children.
The Peachtree City rally was the first time Cushman, Gingrich's daughter from his first wife, introduced her 45-year-old stepmom. She said it's been "absolutely wonderful" watching Callista on the campaign trail.
"She has put in more hours than you can imagine. She has not complained. She has gotten up everyday, she has smiled as she does now. She's always smiling and she has been such a support for my father in this campaign," Cushman said of Callista. "I want everybody to know that she is really behind my dad, she is with my dad, she is with him every day, she works incredibly hard."
Callista then introduced her husband, another signal she is becoming a more vocal surrogate on behalf of her husband of nearly 12 years.
"Newt and I are engaged in this race because we believe America is at a crossroads and care deeply about the future of this country," said Callista. "Newt is the only candidate with the experience and knowledge necessary to rebuild the America we love. He has a successful national record of creating jobs, balancing the budget and reforming the government."