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Gingrich Goes for Wonk Over Red Meat at CPAC

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

While the other presidential contenders may have tailored their Conservative Political Action Conference speeches to the crowd, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich chose to stick to his standard campaign speech today, ticking off a series of policy positions to largely polite applause.

Gingrich was repeatedly interrupted by sustained applause during last year’s CPAC and was treated like a conquering hero before and after his speech.

But this year, the Georgia Republican found himself in a much different position. Instead of a rousing stem-winder, Gingrich walked the listless crowd through dozens of his domestic and foreign policy proposals. Instead of constantly finding himself interrupted by standing ovations, Gingrich went nearly five minutes before hearing his first applause.

Indeed, while former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used their speeches earlier in the day to make the case for why conservatives should back them, Gingrich seemed to be introducing himself to the crowd — an odd choice given his decades-long involvement with CPAC.

Gingrich opened with a sustained riff on his critics and the media, repeatedly pointing out instances in which his plans have been called unrealistic or impossible. “They’re describing the America that can’t. That’s the establishment’s America,” Gingrich said.

“We intend to change Washington, not accommodate it,” he added.

Gingrich also avoided attacking his opponents either directly or indirectly. For instance, the only time he mentioned Romney during his speech was in reference to his tax returns — and to say he would look to reduce Americans’ tax rate. Gingrich never named Santorum during his remarks.

Gingrich’s speech was long on policy proposals, ranging from a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law, modernizing fraud and abuse detection systems, an audit of the federal reserve and creating a commission on the use of gold and silver as the basis of the nation’s currency.

Gingrich even directed listeners to his website to read a 54-page paper on the judicial system.

Many of his attacks on Obama did not result in the kind of thunderous applause that met similar attacks by Romney, Santorum or even freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).

For instance, Gingrich’s declaration that “we should abolish the death tax because it is an immoral tax” got a far more rousing response than when he quipped that “I want to make sure that no future American president every bows to another Saudi king ever.”

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