- - Friday, May 20, 2011

WATERLOO, Iowa — 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 his being showered with glitter by a gay-rights activist in Minneapolis.

“My reaction is if you’re the candidate of very dramatic change, it 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.

He risked more controversy — and openly acknowledged doing so — when he told listeners in response to a question that some illegal immigrants will have to gain some kind of official legal status. Many Republicans — especially in the party’s voter base — oppose any form of amnesty as a reward for law-breaking.

“Because I think we are going to want to find some way to deal with the people who are here, to distinguish between those who have no ties to the United States, and therefore you can deport them at minimum human cost, and those who, in fact, may have earned the right to become legal but not citizens,” he said.

Despite speculation that Mr. Gingrich might not be able to overcome his first-week stumbles, especially the Medicare comment that ended in him apologizing to Rep. Paul 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,” he 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 photograph taken with him.

“We’ve had larger crowds everywhere,” Mr. Gingrich said, 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 talk 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.”

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 the Wisconsin Republican to apologize.

“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. “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 Mr. Gingrich utters is scrutinized.

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

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