Gingrich mixes pleasure and politics at the zoo
March 16th, 2012
11:10 PM ET
10 years ago

Gingrich mixes pleasure and politics at the zoo

New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) – In between checking out the flamingoes and elephants at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans Friday, Newt Gingrich touched on challenges for Mitt Romney and why his GOP presidential rival is keeping Gingrich in the race.

He made the comments while chatting politics with his zoo tour guide, Audubon Nature Institute head Ron Forman.

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Contrary to what he’s been saying for weeks, Gingrich suggested he would bow out of the Republican delegate hunt if Romney is close to the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination by the GOP convention this summer.

“Well it depends, if we are successful and he doesn’t have an absolute – if he doesn’t have 1,000 delegates, I mean you know, if he’s close, attrition will get him the last 100,” Gingrich said of Romney, when Forman asked if would go to the convention. “But if he’s under 1,000 delegates, I don’t think he’s going to get the nomination.”

Gingrich suggested Romney has a Napoleon complex, based on the way he is campaigning negatively against him and Rick Santorum.

“With both Santorum and me, he's now confused as to who he is attacking. It's his only technique. I tell people he's like a 4-foot-8 guy who wants to play center and his only technique is to shrink the others, which I think bodes very badly for a general election,” Gingrich said.

The former House speaker was in Louisiana campaigning ahead the state’s March 24 Republican primary. Gingrich attended a luncheon fundraiser at Galatoire’s on Bourbon Street and spoke to about 100 people at Ye Olde College Inn restaurant before he detoured from the campaign trail to visit a zoo, one of his favorite pastimes.

He held a rally on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain in Covington Friday evening, and said he plans to continue campaigning in the state next week.

Gingrich believes he holds an advantage in Louisiana because he lived in New Orleans in the 1960s when he was in college. As he was leaving the elephant exhibit, a reporter asked Gingrich about his chances in Louisiana and he said, “I feel good about it having been a Tulane graduate.”

After losing southern states Alabama and Mississippi to Santorum on Tuesday, Gingrich needs another victory to help keep his presidential hopes alive. He compared his campaign challenges to New Orleans recovering from the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“It’s a little bit like you after the hurricane - it’s more difficult and challenging than I thought it would be, but the direction is right and you can feel it beginning to work,” he said.

Forman, who once ran for mayor of New Orleans, lamented to Gingrich about the negative tone of the GOP race, fueled by ads run mostly by Romney and the Restore Our Future super PAC supporting Romney’s candidacy.

As Gingrich toured the zoo with his sleeves rolled up he noted the negative campaigning was going to hurt Romney and his ability to govern. He said, “Well, I think it makes it hard for him to, A– to beat Obama, and B– to govern.”

When he wasn’t talking about the challenging GOP race, Gingrich was learning about the animals inhabiting the Audubon Zoo. He spent some time with Panya, the 45-year-old 11,000-pound Asian elephant. “They like a hard pat,” he said as he patted Panya’s back.

Gingrich has a well-documented fascination with zoos, beginning in early childhood when he tried to establish a zoo in his hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when he was 11 years old. CNN’s Piers Morgan interviewed him at a zoo in South Carolina in January, and he made an unscheduled stop at the San Diego Zoo on February 14, later telling reporters the visit was a Valentine’s Day present to himself.

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Filed under: 2012 • Louisiana • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Tyler

    I newt am showing just how much this elephant and I are alike. Well physically anyway.

    March 16, 2012 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  2. Thomas

    In our lifetime there will be no more wild elephants.
    No more Lions to spear , only people.

    Newt the Zoo Keeper.

    March 16, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  3. JS

    I think Gingrich is the best candidate and exactly who the country needs. I don't like how he is not over Romney's negative ads in Iowa. Not having the ability to move on is not a good sign for a President.

    Anyway, I want anybody but Obama. The latest CBO numbers showed that Obama's budget will add another $6.7 trillion in the next 10 years and that Obama care's estimate is double.

    March 16, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  4. pjoesmith

    Looks like Newt and his wife has a thing for elephants. Not sure what that means ... but I hope it doesn't result in some sort of contagious disease.

    March 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  5. Melo-D

    Well, at least Newt knows where he belongs.

    March 17, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  6. Charlie in Maine

    "He compared his campaign challenges to New Orleans recovering from the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
    “It’s a little bit like you after the hurricane – it’s more difficult and challenging than I thought it would be..........."

    And did the folks on the Gulf Coast enjoy having their most devistating event in generations compared to lsoing a couple of primaries? And they say that Romney has "trouble relating" to people. I never though I would say this because I disagreed so very much with this poilcies, but when I look at the current crop of GOP candidates I miss Ronald Reagan.

    March 17, 2012 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Hey, Newt. Elephants can seem to be human-friendly, docile and domesticated, but they are very powerful creatures. Stand back, and give them a wide berth there, pal. Elephant trainers like to give the charges "toys" to play with. One favorite for elephants is something benign that gives them an opportunity to flex their muscles. Trainers give them old car tires to roll around on the ground. An adult elephant can turn a tire inside out and roll up like dough to the size of basketball in less than a minute.

    March 17, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  8. Living in the REAL world

    Newt, your logic is rather bizarre at this point. If you were get the nomination and then just whined and complained about all of the negative ads Obama and his lackeys would run against you, you would get slaughtered. "Negative ads" are a normal part of campaigning. They are usually ads that are truthful, but that opponents don't like because they are of failures or mistakes. In Obama's case, Romney would be able to run a massive number of these ads because of all the policy failures over the last 4 years.

    March 17, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  9. hankers

    Someone should tell Newt that elephants don't vote. It is also rumoured that he kissed a monkey while at the zoo.

    March 17, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  10. Miki801

    Newt needs an advisor who looks at the visual. There are two elephants in the zoo! I could not stop the cheap shot. However, I just love the New Orleans' noo.

    March 17, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  11. Core republican Values

    Newt is hoping the elephant will finally forget (about Newt's past).

    March 17, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  12. Core republican Values

    Of the two, Newt has a bigger ego.

    March 17, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  13. Core republican Values

    The elephant has a better chance of getting a man on Mars.

    March 17, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  14. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    both CNN and Newt made this one TOO easy! "Newt rallies at zoo"? ENOUGH SAID! LOL

    March 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  15. frag

    At the zoo: Newt and Rush make a great team.

    March 17, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. joehutton

    the ONLY 'people' who will vote for him.

    March 17, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. Sister Mary Francis

    I feel bad for the elephant.

    March 17, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. Do Dat Ding

    Newt getting hard up for votes ?

    March 17, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  19. Lanai

    Here we go again, more false quotes from the Faux News drones. Don't you people get it – that this so called news organization is a complete sham. Unfair, unbalanced and simply false! It is an outlet of opinion makers who think that if they say the same lies often enough and loud enough – the duped masses will begin to believe it.

    March 17, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. Tony in Maine

    Why is that guy patting Newt?

    March 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  21. Four and The Door

    Gingrich has a well-documented fascination with zoos, beginning in early childhood when he tried to establish a zoo in his hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when he was 11 years old.
    I'm certainly more in the camp of Mitt Romney for nomination, but I think this is a great story. Appreciation for zoos shows a really great side of a politician that you would not normally get to see in the middle of primary season. Zoos are where people go to appreciate and learn about the variety of animals that we share the planet with. That's a pretty cool place to see a politician.

    March 17, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  22. NoKidding

    The zoo is a fitting place for campaigning. And I have to say that for now, it looks like the elephant has a better chance of winning.

    March 17, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  23. David in FL

    All the way to Tampa Newt riding the elephant with a fig leaf

    March 17, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. Steve in texas

    This might be the first time ever that I've looked at Newt and thought 'he'd be good at that job'. Best keep that elephant away from the other Republicans, they'll be cutting its tail off before you know it.

    March 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  25. tonyl

    I hope they lock him up in one of the cages. He is also a wild animal.

    March 17, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
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