IOWA CITY, Iowa – Newt Gingrich didn’t let a student outburst nor another attack from Mitt Romney deter him on Wednesday from continuing to pledge to run a positive presidential campaign – and discuss the subject of brain science.
The former House speaker gave a speech on brain research at the University of Iowa. As he began to speak, a group of about 10 Occupy Wall Street protesters interrupted with a series of yells. Gingrich stood patiently at the podium and waited for the protesters to be escorted away.
(PICTURES: Hecklers of the 2012 Race)
Asked if he wanted to respond to Romney’s statement calling Gingrich “zany” in a New York Times interview, Gingrich contended that he wasn’t interested in going back and forth with his chief GOP rival.
“I understand what all [the other candidates’] consultants are doing –- that’s fine,” he told reporters. “They should run their campaign the way they want to, I’m going to run my campaign the way I want to. And my campaign’s going to focus on positive ideas. And I’m, frankly, taking the gamble that the American people care about actually solving our country’s problems, not just watching politicians beat each other up.”
Another of Gingrich's rivals -- Rep. Michele Bachmann -- also joined in the criticism. Asked about an earlier accusation by one of her South Carolina staffers that the current GOP frontrunner is trying to buy the support of tea party groups, she told CNN that her campaign has heard reports that "money is changing hands."
"I’ve told people, I’ve told evangelicals, I’ve told tea partiers, I don’t pay people to come out and be my supporters -- that’s not what I do," she said.
Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart subsequently sought to clarify the Minnesota congresswoman's remarks. She said the South Carolina staffer, Wesley Donohue, was not implying that Gingrich was buying votes -- his remarks referred to what she called the Gingrich campaign's practice of putting tea party leaders on its campaign payroll without requiring them to do much.
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said in response to Bachmann's comments: "We're not sure about the strategy of other campaigns, but we know our campaign and our effort to court tea party members to come be part of it -- we do not challenge [tea party] people’s character."
In his appearance at the university, Gingrich discussed the problem of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia that will affect growing numbers of Americans if no cure is found.
He contended that just by postponing the onset of Alzheimer’s, the United States could save as much as $8 trillion – an amount he said was seven times greater than the total the recent congressional super committee tried without success to cut from the deficit.