The Ticket

Gingrich sticks to script despite tough odds in Saturday’s Louisiana primary

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

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(Julia Rendleman/AP)

NEW ORLEANS--It was less a campaign speech and more a general studies lecture.

Standing against the backdrop of a chalkboard and two massive charts featuring the periodic table, Newt Gingrich spent his final campaign event ahead of Saturday's Louisiana primary addressing a classroom full of Tulane University students.

For nearly 45 minutes, the former House speaker talked at length about an array of somewhat unexpected subjects, including the Wright Brothers feud with the Smithsonian over the birth of modern aviation—an analogy he made to highlight private enterprise versus over-the-top government spending. He described himself  as a "dreamer" and defended his efforts to champion future space exploration.

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"I'm a visionary," Gingrich declared at one point, pausing the explain that as a professor at Tulane, his alma mater, he had taught a class specifically about the "year 2000."

During an extended riff on the country's growing debt crisis, Gingrich paused and asked, "Has anyone here looked at Greece?" Not a single hand was raised, as some students exchanged looks.

At one point, Gingrich even faked a German accent to imitate an old professor who had criticized him for being too tan when he should be pale from studying inside the library all day.

"He was very German," Gingrich explained.

It was not until the end of his remarks that Gingrich made his first and only mention of Louisiana's primary. "The point of my campaign is that big ideas matter. Talking about things is worth it," the ex-speaker declared.  "I need your help tomorrow."

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It was a muted request for what is considered by many to be a must-win state for Gingrich, who has won just two primaries: South Carolina and his home state of Georgia.

But Gingrich's chances aren't looking good ahead of Saturday's primary. As Louisiana Republicans prepared to vote, several polls found Rick Santorum with a major advantage in the state. An American Research Group survey released Friday found the former Pennsylvania senator leading Mitt Romney by 16 points, 43 percent to 27 percent. Gingrich was at 20 percent, followed by Ron Paul at just 6 percent.

But while Louisiana has 46 delegates at stake, just 20 are in play on Saturday. The rest will be apportioned at the state convention in June. And there's even more complicating factors to the vote: If a candidate fails to secure at least 25 percent of the statewide primary vote, he will be awarded no delegates at all.

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Given the small number of actual delegates at stake, Santorum's expected win is unlikely to shake up the GOP race. But all eyes will be on Gingrich, who will no doubt face more pressure to exit the race should he not perform well in the state.

But there were no signs he's thinking of dropping his bid just yet. Standing behind the lectern at Tulane, Gingrich seemed as though he were in heaven. At one point, he waxed on romantically about New Orleans, where he lived for several years while attending Tulane.

'The culture, the city, the sense of life here is so unique," Gingrich said.

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