DULUTH, Georgia — Newt Gingrich battled to re-energize his flagging White House bid by winning Super Tuesday contests in the South to get a launchpad for a broader national campaign.
Gingrich, running a weak third in the race for the Republican nomination for a candidate to face President Barack Obama in November, was tipped to win his home state of Georgia but faces an uphill climb in the pivotal 10-state voting marathon and beyond.
Speaking at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce in Duluth, north of Atlanta, the former House of Representatives speaker insisted he is best positioned to challenge the Democratic president.
Gingrich said he plans to “fundamentally change a federal government that stifles innovation.”
“I have opponents who in a normal period are adequate but they don’t have anything like the scale change I just described to you,” said Gingrich, who is lagging in most states behind frontrunner Mitt Romney and former senator Rick Santorum.
“Let me tell you, anyone who thinks Romney can out-raise Obama, it ain’t gonna happen,” Gingrich said, arguing that the race will be won by ideas, not money.
“You better be prepared to wage a campaign of ideas this fall because that’s the only way we can beat Obama. The only hope we have to beat Obama is to have better ideas and to communicate clearly, to break through his billion-dollar campaign.”
On Monday, Gingrich vowed to win Georgia by “four or five times the margin that Romney had in Michigan,” referring to last week’s primary, in which Romney won his home state by narrowly edging out Santorum.
Gingrich won a crushing victory in January’s South Carolina primary but has not won a single state since then, as Romney and Santorum have taken center stage in the topsy-turvy nomination battle.
He is holding his ground in the South but trailing in most other states, including the delegate-rich Ohio, which is up for grabs on Tuesday.
A recent poll carried out by Public Policy Polling found Santorum leading in Tennessee with 34 percent, followed by Romney at 29 percent and Gingrich at 27 percent.
The same polling institute gave Gingrich a whopping 47 percent in Georgia, followed by Romney with 24 percent and Santorum with 19 percent.
The candidates have each vowed to stay in the race until the Republican National Convention in August, but losses in the South could deal a fatal blow to Gingrich’s campaign.
Gingrich was getting a warm welcome in the state he represented in Congress for two decades.
Cindy Whitherspoon, 73, said Gingrich “is the only one that follows our principles as a country and the best option after this horrible Obama era.”
But Maggie McCain, 48, who called herself a “pro-life feminist,” said she would back Santorum because of his strong anti-abortion stand: “Rick Santorum shares our common belief in the real betterment of women, he is a true champion for women’s health.”
In addition to Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee, Republicans will vote in Virginia, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Idaho, North Dakota, Alaska and Vermont.
More than 400 delegates are up for grabs on Super Tuesday — nearly 40 percent of the total needed to secure the nomination.
Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz said Gingrich is entering a make-or-break time.
“Gingrich will win in Georgia because he’s almost a family member, but he is leaving very little room for survival in this race,” Abramowitz said.
“He may have more hope if he wins in Alabama and Mississippi next week but every day seems more difficult.”