Gingrich gives wide-ranging stump speech in Columbia

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich speaks to a crowd of about 250 in Columbia on Friday, Dec. 22.

COLUMBIA — Newt Gingrich said today that if he wins South Carolina’s GOP nomination for president, he thinks it will give him the momentum to win nationally and take on President Barack Obama.

Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, did more than stick to red meat Republican topics during his stop in the capital city before a larger-than-anticipated crowd of some 250, including several Occupy Columbia protesters. He spoke for about 20 minutes and took questions for another 40 minutes.

One questioner was booed for asking Gingrich his opinion on the Confederate battle flag flying on Statehouse grounds, but Gingrich’s answer scored him a standing ovation from many in the crowd. He said whether to fly the battle flag is South Carolina’s business.

Gingrich hit the typical Republican high points: he would eliminate the death tax, set the capital gains tax at zero, establish a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, cut government red tape, repeal “Obamacare” and replace the Environmental Protection Agency with a new agency with a new mission.

But Gingrich also spoke about his support for an off-shore drilling profit-sharing plan by Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb of Virginia that would split the cash among the federal government, state government, infrastructure and land conservation. Such cash could, for example, be used to modernize the ports in Charleston and Georgetown, Gingrich said.

Gingrich also said he would accept an invitation from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to attend their annual conference, if asked, and he would invite them to join him in coming up with ideas for creating prosperity in America.

On the topic of illegal immigration, Gingrich said he would completely secure the U.S. border by January 2014, make English the official language of the American government, require a better understanding of America to become a citizen or a high school graduate, make the visa process easier, make deportation easier and create a guest worker program. Gingrich also said he would create a residency program for illegal immigrants who have been in the country for 25 years and have been productive members of society.

Read more in Saturday’s editions of The Post and Courier.