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GOP presidential candidate Gingrich begins stretch to Iowa with momentum, call for civic duty
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ' Americans are going to have to do more for themselves if they want the government to do less, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Thursday.
The former House speaker's call for "more responsible" citizens is the crux of the message he said he planned to stress as he approached the final month of campaigning for votes in Iowa's leadoff nominating caucuses.
"Whether you are a parent or grandparent or an aunt or an uncle you have responsibilities to your community, your neighborhood," Gingrich told about 500 employees of an insurance company at its Des Moines headquarters. "And we're all going to have to roll up our sleeves and be a little bit more responsible in the next 30 years."
While warning that he alone couldn't turn the country around as president, Gingrich also expressed confidence in his resurgent campaign.
Gingrich is riding a wave of late support, having lost most of his national campaign staff over fundraising and strategy issues in June. He met with some of Iowa's many Republican state lawmakers and picked up backing from a former top supporter of rival Herman Cain.
"I'm going to be the nominee," Gingrich said in an ABC News interview. "It's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee."
Gingrich's demeanor Thursday, loose and cheerful, belied the increasing intensity in the once slow-moving campaign for Iowa's Jan. 3 caucuses.
While a driving snow in central Iowa heralded the coming caucuses, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was preparing to air his first advertisement in Iowa, a spot for Friday touting his business background and plan to cut the budget.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry also planned to introduce a new ad Friday, his seventh, focusing on his Christian faith.
Two nationally televised debates are scheduled within the next two weeks in the state.
Despite leading in some national and Iowa polls, Gingrich has little of the campaign infrastructure on the ground. Identifying supporters and turning them out at roughly 1,700 precinct-level political meetings requires an organizational network other candidates have spent more time developing than Gingrich has.
Last month, he hired back two of the Iowa staffers who quit in June, and added three more this week.
Gingrich joked Thursday that a methodical march to the caucuses would have been no challenge.
"We had a chance in June to do it easy, and thought to ourselves, why would you want to do that?" Gingrich said during an Associated Press interview.
He said he's now scrambling to build a campaign organization while hoping a winning message can resonate with undecided caucusgoers.
Gingrich's scholarly style ' he's a former college history professor ' and blunt candor have produced standout debate performances that have boosted his fundraising in recent months.
Without scolding, he said lasting economic recovery would require sacrifice.
"So every person who says they want a smaller bureaucracy and less power in Washington, you better sign up to do more things yourself," he told the AP.
It was a message that won over Charlie Gruchow. A tea party organizer in Iowa, he had been a strong supporter of Cain. But the reports of sexual harassment and an alleged extramarital affair had damaged Cain, said Gruchow, who said he would support and likely work for Gingrich's campaign.
Gingrich's path is far from certain.
Polls of Iowa GOP caucusgoers have shown Romney continually strong but not dominant, underscoring a healthy contingent of Republicans looking for an alternative to the former Massachusetts governor.
Gingrich's history as a Washington insider with nuanced positions, such as support for allowing some illegal immigrants to remain in the country, has prompted rivals to begin attacking him in the conservative state.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul released a blistering Internet video Wednesday, raking Gingrich in part for receiving more than $1.5 million from the embattled federally backed mortgage company Freddie Mac for consulting work after he left Congress.
"If we want nuance, we have that in Romney," said Iowa Republican activist Chuck Laudner. "What we want is clarity."