Charleston, S.C. -- Newt Gingrich cancelled his appearance at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference Friday, with his campaign citing poor attendance as reason for the last minute announcement. There were about 30 people in audience but approximately 10 cameras and a gaggle of reporters on the premises.
"The organizers and the campaign have mutually decided based on attendance, Newt is going to go to the children's hospital to spend more time with the children," campaign spokesperson Nathan Naidu told reporters. The children's hospital visit was originally planned as a town hall, but the campaign changed it to be a tour.
His daughters also issued a last minute cancellation Friday. They were originally scheduled to appear on network morning shows to respond to an ABC interview with Gingrich's second wife Marianne. Their cancellation came after Newt Gingrich drew a standing ovation at the CNN debate by telling moderator John King, "To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."
The SRLC has been drawing small crowds this week, and Rick Santorum is the only candidate to appear before Friday. Event organizers said 1,700 people registered for the event, but crowds of less than a hundred people have been seen.
"I think it stinks," said Ann Sullivan, of Goldsboro, North Carolina when she learned of Gingrich's cancellation. "Is this the best attended event I've ever been to? No. But he gave his word."