Gingrich makes a play for Washington State


Sidelining himself in Arizona and taking a light step in Michigan where Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are duking it out, Newt Gingrich is honing in on Washington State as the next place where he could notch a win.

Washington holds its non-binding straw poll caucus on March 3. Forty-three delegates are up for grabs –- the most of any contest since the Florida primary and the last one before Super Tuesday.

 “We’ll make a very diligent effort to win the caucus,” campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said, calling Washington a “pretty big score.”

Gingrich hasn’t announced any public events in Michigan, days after declaring he’d campaign there with the goal of reaching the 15 percent threshold necessary to win delegates. The campaign has also reduced its ambitions in Arizona, with the candidate holding just one public event here after the CNN debate.  

Instead, Gingrich is looking to Washington for a much needed boost ahead of Super Tuesday, courting rural voters in the region east of the Cascades on Thursday before campaigning along the I-5 corridor in the Seattle metro area Friday.

“Washington State like many states in the West knows more than others how dramatic an impact the federal government can have on people’s lives, whether it’s the EPA, whether it’s the forest service, whether it’s the Department of Agriculture,” Hammond said. “There’s no rancher, farmer, or sportsman who doesn’t know what it’s like to have Uncle Sam breathing down your neck. So you’re going to hear Gingrich talk a lot about how the federal government doesn’t need to be an intrusive force in people’s lives.”

Newt Gingrich has bolted together a Washington operation at the last minute, announcing just a week ago that Lew Moore, Ron Paul’s national campaign manager in 2008, would be heading up his caucus-organizing efforts.

Santorum and Ron Paul have both already visited the state and Mitt Romney is planning another one March 1, but after this two-day haul -- his first visit to the state -- Gingrich will have made the most campaign stops.

A Public Policy Poll released Tuesday shows Santorum at the front of the pack in Washington at 38 percent, with Romney at 27 percent, Paul at 15 Percent, and Gingrich at 12 percent.

Still, given the fluctuating nature of the 2012 race, there’s still plenty of time for Gingrich’s fortunes to change.

As the home to Microsoft, Amazon.com, and Boeing, Washington has a technologically savvy population and a vibrant social media network, which opens up the opportunity for Gingrich to reach a wider audience more quickly than he would in other states.

The Washington State Republican Party issues straw poll results on March 3, but the official winner of the delegates will not be determined until the state convention in early June. John McCain won the state in 2008, but was the frontrunner by the time the caucus was held.