- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2011

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday he’ll use “cheerful persistence” to overcome the bumps that marked the first formal week of his campaign.

Mr. Gingrich said he isn’t surprised by the rough start to his campaign, ranging from Republican outrage at his description of a proposed House overhaul of Medicare as “right-wing social engineering” to being showered with glitter by a gay-rights activist in Minneapolis.

“My reaction is if you’re the candidate of very dramatic change, if you’re the candidate of really new ideas, you have to assume there’s a certain amount of clutter and confusion and it takes a while to sort it all out, because you are doing something different,” Mr. Gingrich told reporters after he opened an intense three-day campaign swing in Iowa.

Despite speculation that Mr. Gingrich might not be able to overcome his first-week stumbles, especially the Medicare comment that ended in his apologizing to Rep. Paul D. Ryan — the force behind the plan — Mr. Gingrich told about 150 people in Waterloo that his campaign was fine.

“This campaign is very alive and very well, with lots of grass-roots support,” Mr. Gingrich told the crowd. “It’s been a little bit of a challenging week.”

Few in the crowd seemed worried about the controversy, and they gave him a warm response, with many lingering to have their photographs taken with him.

“We’ve had larger crowds everywhere,” said Mr. Gingrich, noting that Thursday’s event had to be moved to a bigger room because of the number of people who turned up. He said his brash talks and bold approach are the hallmarks of his appeal.

Part of his problem, Mr. Gingrich said, is that the media are accustomed to politicians sticking to talking points and aren’t prepared for his wide-ranging views.

“If you give them the standard three points, they know how to write down the standard three points,” Mr. Gingrich said. “If you’re careful and really cautious and repeat robotically everything that you’ve memorized, then fine, but how do you get to real solutions?”

He said reporters covering his campaign must adjust their thinking.

“It’s going to take a while for the news media to realize that you’re covering something that happens once or twice in a century, a genuine grass-roots campaign of very big ideas,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I expect it to take a while for it to sink in.”

He said there’s some precedent for other candidates surviving early campaign problems.

“Ronald Reagan’s opening week in the 1980 campaign was filled with bumps,” Mr. Gingrich said. “It happens if you’re the candidate of ideas.”

Many in the audience seemed willing to give Mr. Gingrich the benefit of the doubt and dismiss the Medicare controversy.

On Sunday, Mr. Gingrich told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Mr. Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system was a radical change that he opposed. On Tuesday, Mr. Gingrich called Mr. Ryan to apologize for his comments.

“I listen to the commentators, and a lot of what he says and how they interpret it was really wrong,” said Shari Folken of Cedar Falls, Iowa. “I’m comfortable with where he is on Medicare.”

Craig Gingrich of Cedar Falls, who isn’t related to the former House speaker, said people have mischaracterized the candidate’s comments.

“He is misinterpreted and spun continuously,” Craig Gingrich said. “Half the things are untrue that you see written about him.”

Jerry Hammer said every word that Mr. Gingrich utters is scrutinized.

“We all say things we shouldn’t at one time or another,” Mr. Hammer said.

Asked how he would handle the issue, Mr. Gingrich chuckled. “Cheerful persistence. We learned that in the 1980s,” he said.

He said the reaction to his campaign speaks for itself. “This is going to be a campaign that constantly changes, that constantly evolves,” Mr. Gingrich said.

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