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Newt Gingrich Calls for Expanded Oil Production in Puget Sound Visit

The Republican presidential primary candidate — known for his rhetorical bombast — urged voters to support his conservative agenda at two Puget sound rallies in the run-up to the March 3 Republican local precinct caucuses.

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The sudden surge in gas prices nationwide played right into Newt Gingrich’s stump speech during a rally Friday at the Historic Everett Theater in Everett.

The Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House has long called for unleashing of America’s full energy production potential of oil, saying the political left has been trying to drive up gasoline prices for 30 years by ignoring that potential.

“When I was Speaker of the House, gas was $1.13 a gallon. When President Obama (took office), it was $1.89,” he said. Several towns and cities in the Puget Sound have already seen gas prices rise this month past $4 a gallon again. “If you want gas at $2.50 a gallon, vote for me. If you want gas at $10 a gallon, vote for Obama.”

Gingrich’s comments were red meat to the enthusiastic crowd who filled the Everett theater. By taking full advantage of oil in the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico, he said the U.S. could be producing more than Saudi Arabia and Russia combined by the end of the decade.

Before Gingrich took to the podium, the crowd was led in prayer and the singing of the National Anthem by Tony Moore, president of the Federal Way School Board (Moore helped organize an earlier Gingrich rally Friday in Federal Way at the Best Western Plus Evergreen Inn & Suites). The crowd cheered loudly for Gingrich’s wife, Callista Gingrich, who spoke for a few minutes before her husband took the stage. She remained at his side for the entire one-hour speech.

The presidential primary candidate touched on familiar themes, including welfare reform, repealing the estate tax (or so-called “death” tax), balancing the budget (saying he’s the only Speaker of the House to preside over four consecutive balanced budgets “in our lifetime”) and creating a 15 percent tax rate. But that didn't stop him from taking a swipe at leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who acknowledged that he paid an effective federal tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010 on $27 million in earnings, a rate much lower than most Americans.

“I’d like to have you have the same tax rate as Romney,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich also said it's time to get tougher on terrorism.

“If you look at the average terrorist bomb plot, they do not come from the Kansas Kiwanis," he said. "We allow Muslim front groups to dictate to the U.S. government what appropriate behavior is. We hold meetings with the Organization of Islamic Countries, which is basically organized for the purpose of having a totally one-sided (perspective). And we assure them that we want to help them — I don’t want to help them.”

If the U.S. wants to help them, Gingrich added, “We have to start by asking them, how soon can we build a (Christian) church in Saudi Arabia?”

, the rally in Everett featured few disruptions. When one man in the theater’s balcony yelled that Gingrich was “part of the 1 percent,” — a reference to the “We are the 99 percent” slogan adopted by the Occupy movement — the crowd quickly drowned out the man with chants of “Newt, Newt, Newt,” and another audience member near the stage stood up and yelled at the protestor to come down to the lower level and repeat what he said.

Gingrich recognized the man’s rights to his opinions, but fired off: “It’s better that some people should ventilate rather than explode.”

On the subject of the current occupant of the White House, criticism of President Obama is standard fare in all the Republican Party candidates' talking points — but Gingrich wasn’t as harsh in Everett as in previous speeches across the country. One of the biggest cheers of the evening, however, came with this: “I believe the economy will turn around late election night when people know Obama is no longer in office.” He also added a zinger about the country “becoming a secular dictatorship under President Obama.”

The recent influx of Republican presidential candidates to Washington — , Mitt Romney is scheduled next week — comes in preparation for the state’s Republican caucus on March 3.  

Gingrich reminded those voting in the caucuses to keep a few things in mind.

“I want this campaign to offer every American the chance to pursue happiness by having a job. I believe America only works when Americans are working. I believe that means we go back to when it worked for Reagan, when we created 16 million jobs, and when it worked for Clinton and me when we created 11 million jobs in four years. Pretty simple. Lower taxes, less regulation, more American energy and respect for and enthusiasm for people who create jobs.”

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