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Struggling in Iowa, Gingrich getting help from allies airing 30-minute show
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ' Newt Gingrich is getting a little help from his friends.
The Republican presidential candidate's allies plan to run a half-hour television special on local Iowa stations this weekend, a last-ditch attempt to help Gingrich rebound from a slide in polls ahead of Tuesday's Iowa caucuses. An independent outside organization made up of Gingrich backers, called a super PAC, also is running ads on his behalf as others are doing for his rivals.
It's the first time in this race where an organization has reserved 30 minutes of airtime to promote a candidate.
The conservative media company Newsmax hired Michael Reagan, the son of President Ronald Reagan, to host the special. It focuses on Gingrich's political career and successes as a conservative leader, and Michael Reagan calls Gingrich "a person who we believe will help continue my father's legacy."
It couldn't come at a better time for Gingrich. He doesn't have the money to counter the millions of dollars that his rivals have spent to blanket the state's airwaves with attack ads ' many from a super PAC aligned with rival Mitt Romney ' that have damaged his campaign.
Reagan told The Associated Press he agreed to host the program in part because he's concerned that the many conservative alternatives to Romney will splinter the conservative vote in Iowa and allow the former Massachusetts governor ' he is considered more moderate ' to win. Reagan has not endorsed a candidate for the 2012 election.
"Newt Gingrich and I have been friends for a long time and so when Newsmax asked me I was happy to say yes," Reagan said.
In the midst of a 22-stop bus tour across the state, Gingrich will continue campaigning through Iowa on Saturday, a day after he choked up and wiped away tears while recalling his late mother's struggle with depression and mental illness.
Speaking at an event with mothers in Des Moines, the former House speaker said his focus on brain science comes directly from "dealing with the real problems of real people in my family."
"And so it's not a theory. It's, in fact, my mother," he said as he wiped away tears.
"I do policy much easier than I do personal," Gingrich said. The tears flowed as the former speaker responded to questions about his mother from a pollster and longtime political ally.
Kit Gingrich died in 2003 at the age of 77. Gingrich said Friday she spent her final years in a long-term care facility where she suffered from depression, bipolar disease and gradually acquired physical ailments.
The moment was reminiscent of Hillary Rodham Clinton's teary-eyed response to a question just before the 2008 Democratic primary in New Hampshire. The former first lady's rare emotional response was credited with humanizing her in the eyes of voters and she went to pull off a win in the state.
His two daughters and his wife, Callista, were in the audience.
"Callista will tell you I get teary-eyed every time we sing Christmas carols," he said.
Follow Kasie Hunt at www.twitter.com/kasie and Shannon McCaffrey at www.twitter.com/smccaffrey13 .