By Len Lazarick
Newt Gingrich “gives a great speech,” people at a state GOP fundraiser Thursday night agreed, but the former House speaker is not likely to be the Republican nominee for president.
When asked if they had a favorite for the presidential nomination, the most common answer from dozens of elected officials interviewed at the annual Red White & Blue dinner at the BWI Marriott was “not yet.” But for those who had, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was the pick.
“I think Mitt Romney is the guy,” said freshman Del. Kathy Afzali. “He was my guy last time.”
Afzali likes Michele Bachmann too. “I think any one of them is going to beat Barack Obama,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs was in the “not yet” camp, but “I do like Michele Bachmann.”
“It will be very interesting to see who rises to the top,” Jacobs said. “We’ve got some pretty good people coming up.”
Former state GOP chairman Jim Pelura and wife Maryann are hoping Texas Gov. Rick Perry will get into the race. “Otherwise I’m at a loss,” Pelura said.
“I’ve always been of the opinion that a governor makes the best president,” Pelura said. He also liked what Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has done, but Daniels has bowed out.
“We want somebody that’s principled, somebody that’s passionate,” Pelura said.
Richard Cross, a former speechwriter for Gov. Bob Ehrlich, said there was “a sense of inevitability” about Romney, who came in second last time. “I think it’s going to be Romney,” Cross said.
Sen. Allan Kittleman of Howard County was a Romney supporter four years ago, and is now.
Sen. Rich Colburn of Dorchester County said, “I don’t see a close second,” and like Kittleman, he thinks Romney would handle the economy better.
“I love Mitt Romney,” said former GOP chairman Audrey Scott. He gave “a tremendous speech” at last year’s annual dinner. She sat with Romney at that event, after meeting him for the first time, and “it was like I’ve known him all my life.”
But she’s also “interested to see what Rick Perry will do.”
Bob Duckworth, longtime clerk of the Circuit Court in Anne Arundel County, said, “I like a lot of them,” and is not at all disappointed with the candidates, despite media portrayals of a weak field. “As a Republican, I’m very pleased with the field,” Duckworth said.
Harford County Executive David Craig was one of those who hadn’t chosen someone to back, but “I lean toward people with executive experience. Legislators are used to ducking issues,” said Craig, a former state senator.
(Craig, by the way, is term-limited, but is likely to be running for something in 2014, perhaps even governor. He raised $80,000 at a fundraiser last week. “I’ve got about four more elections in me,” said Craig, who’s been through 20 elections already as a Havre de Grace city councilman, mayor, state delegate, senator and county executive.)
Gingrich got an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd of about 250 at the $250 per ticket event. Despite the dominance of Maryland Democrats, Gingrich told the crowd, “there are no blue states,” and that Republicans here needed to go into every precinct in the state, and ask people whether they preferred food stamps or paychecks for their children.
He lambasted the “Obama depression” with its 41% unemployment for black teens, and said the country needs a new Ronald Reagan, whose policies helped to grow 25 million jobs.
Gingrich was particularly critical of Obama’s foreign policy and his speech Tuesday night on Afghanistan asserting “the tide of war is receding.”
“I think the president has no clue how dangerous the world is,” Gingrich said, and needs to understand the threat of “radical Islamists” who present the potential for “an enormous wave of violence.”