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  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich - Newt Gingrich along with his wife Callista, speaks to supporters on Tuesday evening at the Center of NH.
  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich - Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich with his wife Callista by his side, addresses supporters at the Center of NH on Tuesday evening.
  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich - Newt Gingrich with his wife Callista by his side, addresses supporters at the Center of NH on Tuesday evening.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Newt and Callista Gingrich stopped at the polls at Bedford High School Tuesday, January 10, 2012.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gingrich greeted warmly despite fourth place finish

MANCHESTER – Undeterred by a triumphiant Mitt Romney declaring victory, Newt Gingrich’s supporters came alive when their candidate greeted them despite his fourth-place finish.

Supporters crowded the stage and chanted “Newt, Newt.” One man yelled, “Keeping fighting, Newt.”

Gingrich tried to put the New Hampshire primary in perspective, pointing out that although it’s influential, it is only the second of many preliminary elections to decide the Republican nominee.

“This is step two of a long process,” he said. “This campaign is going to go on to South Carolina.

“I believe as we get close to South Carolina and the choice becomes clearer … I believe we can reach out and create a majority that will shock the country,” he said.

Earlier in the night, it was a different story as Romney’s grinning visage was beaming on TV monitors inside the Manchester Radisson hotel. The room was about half full, while a few Gingrich supporters watched with slightly grim, if unsurprised, expressions.

Preston Lawrence, a Loudon resident, said he was hoping for a strong third-place finish for his chosen candidate. Given that Gingrich was tied with Rick Santorum in a tussle for fourth place, with about 10 percent of the vote – well behind third-place Jon Huntsman – Lawrence said the chances of a revitalization in South Carolina didn’t look too good.

“It’s not good. I was hoping he would be at least third place,” Lawrence said. “It’s pretty iffy. We’ll see. Maybe he’ll have a better shot in South Carolina. It’s a whole different world down there. But it’s not looking good.”

There was a low buzz of conversation inside the Elm Street hotel all evening but not the huge crowds and energy of some of the other Republicans who finished near the top of the polls Tuesday night.

Reporters and cameramen dominated the rear of the large ballroom. At least a dozen large television cameras were set up on a set of risers, focused on the small stage where Gingrich was set to appear.

MSNBC set up a small television studio in one corner of the hotel lobby. Several televisions of various sizes were set up around the room and in the hallway outside. Once it was clear the race was decided, it wasn’t hard to hear those televisions over the muted conversations throughout the rest of the room.

Not everyone was down on Gingrich’s performance in New Hampshire, though.

Rep. William O’Brien, speaker of the New Hampshire House and a Gingrich endorser, saw the results as a win. It’s becoming clear, he said, that Romney, even with all of his campaign’s money and organization, can’t clinch a strong win among Republicans.

“I am really enthused. We’re going to go into South Carolina, and Newt Gingrich will have a good strong showing,” O’Brien said. “I’m encouraged by the progress we’ve made here in the face of some vicious attacks.”

O’Brien predicted that Gringrich will overtake Romney in the polls before Florida votes later this month.

Lenny Dupere, a Campton resident, was glued to the results long before media sources declared the race for Romney. He was positive about Gingrich’s chances, too.

“I think he’s doing pretty good,” he said. “We were hoping he would come in second but fourth is pretty good. Obviously, I hope he does better in South Carolina. But I think he’s the man to turn this country around. A lot of people are hurting. We need Newt in there.”

Many have commented on Gingrich’s decision to begin taking shots at Romney after the Iowa caucuses earlier this month. Opinions varied at the rally Tuesday as to whether that was a good decision.

“That turned me from him,” said Joe Reisert, an Amherst resident. “I didn’t think he would turn to that.”

Lawrence, a Loudon resident, said Gingrich should have come out stronger after enduring a pounding on Iowa airwaves in the lead up to that contest.

“I think he should have done it a while ago. I think he was too passive when those attack ads came out,” Lawrence said. “I think he should have come right back at him.”

Claire Natula, a Meredith resident, isn’t a Gingrich supporter but visited the Radisson on Tuesday because she’s a self-described “news junkie” and wanted to take in the scene.

She said Gingrich stumbled in New Hampshire when his prodigious intelligence started to come off like condescension to Granite Staters.

“New Hampshire people can sense that. New Hampshire people don’t like to be talked down to,” she said.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 54-6415 or