MANATEE — More than 3,000 people gathered Tuesday in a Dolphin Aviation hangar to welcome Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich rolled into the hangar by Sarasota Bradenton International Airport in his large campaign bus, as the gathered crowd waved flags that had been distributed by rally organizers.
From the stage, the former U.S. House speaker delivered what has become his standard stump speech, featuring blistering critiques of President Barack Obama.
As Gingrich mentioned the State of the Union address Tuesday evening, several people in crowd booed.
“Tonight, the president will explain that it was all George W. Bush’s fault,” Gingrich said. “This is the third year of his presidency — he needs to get over it.”
Gingrich also called Obama “the best food-stamp president in American history.”
Gingrich, with his wife Callista by his side, also said that gasoline prices have doubled since Obama took office.
If Gingrich becomes president, he says he will “immediately repeal Obamacare,” referring to the new health care law.
“I am for strengthened foreign policy,” Gingrich said. “He is for weakened foreign policy.”
Bradenton resident Jay Rothstein decided to join the rally because he hasn’t made up his mind between Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“I’ve been watching the debates and I can’t quite decide who to vote for yet,” said Rothstein, a snowbird from Staten Island, N.Y. “I can’t stand Obama.”
But Gingrich’s history, Rothstein added, “may knock him out.”
Rothstein said he registered to vote in Florida because it is a more Republican state than New York.
Some rally-goers touted “Newt 2012” signs in the air and placed “Newt 2012” stickers on their shirts.
Hundreds of buttons that read “Don’t believe the liberal media” were also distributed to the crowd along with more than 3,000 flags.
A little boy held a sign that read, “No Obama we need some Newt change.”
“We really believe that Newt Gingrich can win,” said his mom, Stephanie Mahan of Bradenton. “He’s knowledgeable.”
Mahan also said that Gingrich doesn’t need a Teleprompter to give a speech.
“Newt can whoop him (Obama) without one,” she said.
A large flag was displayed at the stage. Before Gingrich arrived, Republican Party of Sarasota County chairman Joe Gruters spoke to the crowd.
“Make sure that Barack Obama is a one-term president,” he said.
“Who here is ready to send Barack Obama’s liberal buddies back to Chicago?” Gruters asked the crowd as they cheered.
They chanted “Newt! Newt! Newt!” before he arrived.
“He’s been in government before,” said James Petrucelli of Sarasota. “He knows his way around Washington.”
But Petrucelli said Gingrich’s tardiness to the rally was “overkill.”
“We’ve waited a long time to see him,” he said.
Madeline Scriba, of Englewood, said these were the first political rallies she’s ever attended. She decided to become more politically involved.
“I don’t like the direction my country is going,” she said.
This way, Scriba said, she can judge for herself who to vote for: “I’m voting for the passionate vote.”
Scriba said she shook Gingrich’s hand earlier on Tuesday.
“You can tell a lot by a handshake,” Scriba said. Gingrich’s handshake was “sincere, warm and firm.”
As she spoke, Gingrich’s bus wheeled into the hangar. She cheered and waved her hands. “This is terribly exciting!” she said.