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Gingrich: Pa. Senate battle is key U.S. race

 

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

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By Paul Peirce
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hopes Pennsylvania voters look beyond "the 30-second attack ads" and the Washington scandal of the day when electing a senator Nov. 7.

"I believe (Rick Santorum's) race is the most important U.S. Senate race in the country this year. He's a principled person who realizes what the stakes are in the world," Gingrich said Monday during a fundraising stop in Hempfield Township for the incumbent Republican senator from Penn Hills, Allegheny County.

Gingrich said Santorum's quick ascension to the third-ranked party leadership post in the Senate indicates his knowledge and grasp of the complicated world issues facing the United States. He claimed Santorum's Democratic challenger, state Treasurer Bob Casey, is inexperienced.

"Bob Casey is just a political figurehead who only hopes to hide long enough to become a U.S. senator," Gingrich said.


The former Georgia congressman said Santorum has taken "a beating" from the mainstream media and various special-interest groups because he is not afraid to fight for issues he believes in.

Gingrich pointed at the war on terror as an example.

"The message is: If there is a terrorist attack who do you want representing you ... Rick Santorum or Bob Casey?" he said.

"If people want Iran to control the Persian Gulf region, then they should vote for Robert Casey. If they want to stop Iran and have someone representing them who will stand up to Iran, then they should vote for Rick Santorum," Gingrich said.

"There are people out there throughout the world who want to kill us because we're Americans. These are the most complex times in the United States since April 1861," the start of the Civil War, Gingrich said.

Gingrich conceded national events last week -- including the resignation of U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, for sending inappropriate e-mail messages to teenage, male Congressional pages, and the release of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial" -- made the terrain more difficult for GOP candidates.

But Gingrich claimed many of the daily Washington scandals that evoke vehement partisan bickering pale when compared as a whole to the challenges facing the nation.

"It's like people bickering over a bridge game on the Titanic ... meanwhile there's an iceberg right there," he said.

As for questions over the Republican House leadership's handling of the Foley affair, Gingrich said he has seen no evidence they were attempting to hide it.

"Based on what I've read, from the information they had available at the time, and with the (page's parents) not wanting to pursue it at that time, I believe it will turn out it was handled properly," Gingrich said.

"I believe if they would have known the extent of the messages, they would have immediately moved to expel (Foley)," he said.

As for Woodward's book, which criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war, Gingrich conceded the timing of its release "is a major asset to the Democratic Party."

About 60 people attended the fundraiser sans Santorum at the residence of Tom and Kim Ward, of Hempfield Township. Kim Ward is a township supervisor and heads Santorum's campaign in southwestern Pennsylvania.

After departing Westmoreland County, Gingrich, who is contemplating a 2008 presidential bid, flew to Erie to campaign for another Republican, U.S. Rep. Phil English, and traveled later yesterday to Harrisburg for another Santorum event. Santorum was campaigning yesterday in the Philadelphia area, according to staff members.

Paul Peirce can be reached at ppeirce@tribweb.com or (724) 850-2860.

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