Like every other Newt Gingrich rally since Newt Gingrich entered politics, the Newt Gingrich rally in Federal Way this afternoon started late. In lieu of punctuality, the 300 or so people packed into the ballroom of the Best Western were treated to a series of songs: Van Halen's "Right Now," "Old Time Rock 'n Roll," and then the litany of country music that has come to be the equivalent of aural wallpaper at Republican rallies—mostly Toby Keith and all rabidly patriotic. One man handed his friend a large Newt 2012 sign. "The man who gave this to me said he needed them back after the rally," he said. Someone else complains to her friend that the media is "ignoring [Newt], and I think that says something."
The first of a series of speakers informs us that "for the first time in the history of Federal Way, we've got a presidential candidate" visiting the city, to great applause. Then Federal Way Public School Board member Tony Moore gave a shout-out to the dozens of students of Federal Way public schools who were in the audience. There were a lot of teenagers at the rally—I'd say at least a quarter of the room. (Since the rest of the room seemed to be made up of retirees, they probably lowered the average age to something like 60.) Rather than representing some Newt Youth Movement, the students appeared to be there reluctantly. Occasionally, one of them would let out with a quick shout of "Obama!" in the middle of the applause, or an ironic "We love you, Newt!" that would crumble the rest of their friends into a pile of giggles. The thing about ironic applause in a room of this size, though, is that it adds to the general sense of buoyancy; a crowd this big doesn't register ironic applause as ironic.
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Moore led the room in a prayer to "make our nation great again...in Jesus's name" and then he introduced "the first strong mayor of Federal Way," Skip Priest. Priest thanked everyone for proving that "there's other cities in Washington besides Seattle and Tacoma." Then came a half-hour wait, during which Washington Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur came out to urge the audience to caucus on March 3rd. He began, "I wouldn't want to be a Democrat [in the November elections], would you?" He continued, "They're not talking about what really matters," which turns out to be jobs and gas prices, although someone in the audience helpfully shouted that "FREEDOM!" is what really matters. Wilbur continued: "If Newt Gingrich spawned"—he stumbled and corrected himself—"sparked you to go to the caucuses, that's good!"
Finally, Newt arrived, and the majority of his speech was spent on energy. He assured the audience that President Obama wanted to raise the taxes on gas ("That's evil!" a woman hissed) and that this was all a plot to ensure that the government will eventually control what kind of a car you drive. President Obama was interested in using "algae" to power cars, Gingrich said, to much derision in the crowd. Gingrich explained that the "silver bullet" to lowering gas prices was to vote Obama out of office. President Obama, Gingrich said, wanted to be God. ("He's evil, he's not God," the same woman hissed.)
One of the biggest applause lines of the speech came when Gingrich announced that President Obama wants to be "president of the wrong country!"
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He would later suggest that the country Obama wanted to be president of was "European," where Obama would achieve his "vision...of total power in the White House." (Someone bellowed, "He's a Marxist!" Gingrich did not respond.) Part of Obama's total power apparently involves him "singing Kumbaya with Ahmadinejad," which he really wants to do, according to Gingrich. Gingrich also ripped into the president for requesting to end the $4 billion in subsidies the government provides to oil companies, because according to Gingrich the oil companies are going to "save us" from the economic downturn. (A woman in the audience suggested that Obama was going to give the $4 billion he'll earn from cutting the subsidies to "his friends." Someone else agreed.)
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The rest of the speech was standard stump-speech material, outlining Gingrich's first day in office, in which he would repeal Obamacare, sign executive orders calling off Obama's war on religion (he has apparently "declared war on the Catholic Church," according to Gingrich), eliminate White House czars, and otherwise retract "about 40%" of what Obama has done before he touches ground in Chicago. He urged everyone in the hall to post on Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail that President Gingrich would lower gas to $2.50 a gallon, telling them to donate $2.50 to his website. One woman in the audience shouted "Less than that, Newt! I want a dollar a gallon!" Gingrich said he couldn't do a dollar a gallon, and that he wouldn't lie and promise he could because he wasn't a liberal. The audience laughed and laughed.
Out in front of the hotel, Gingrich addressed the crowd overflow, which was made up of about a fifth Occupy Wall Street protesters. Unlike the Santorum rally, the protesters decided to mark the occasion with a silent protest; they turned their back to Gingrich as he gave an abbreviated version of the speech he gave upstairs (the only new addition to the speech was when Gingrich promised that Barack Obama—who he called "President Food Stamp"—would raise gasoline to ten dollars a gallon). About fifty minutes after he arrived, he was gone. It started to rain the second he stopped speaking.