House Speaker Newt Gingrich saw both faces of America’s reaction to his GOP revolution Wednesday in a quick swing through the West Side.
His numerous critics in the liberal bastion of Seattle gave Gingrich a predictably sound verbal thrashing, turning out in droves to trash his policies.
But jubilant conservatives welcomed the speaker and GOP members of Congress like a liberating army.
They shouted a deafening chorus of “Newt! Newt! Newt!” as the silver-haired politician swept into a packed, sweltering ballroom at a Tukwila hotel, and urged Gingrich and his GOP colleagues to stay the course in budget negotiations.
The stock market plummeted Wednesday after Gingrich announced he has no plans to compromise on the budget. But conservatives’ spirits soared.
From the fledgling Newt Gingrich Fan Club drumming up members in the hallway outside the rally, to college students and retirees fanning themselves with Ellen Craswell-for-Governor posters, these Gingrich fans said they couldn’t be happier with the line the speaker has drawn in the sand.
Gingrich brought children onto the stage with him to demonstrate his budget stance.
As he stood beside 7-year-old Steve, Gingrich said: “What balancing the federal budget is about is making sure when Steve grows up and gets a job, taxes are low enough that he actually gets to take some of his salary home.”
With 11-year-old Gabriel next to him, Gingrich took out of his wallet the card he uses to cast votes in Congress.
“This is the most expensive credit card in the world,” he said. “For two generations we have been spending and sending the bill to our children. This is not some green-eyeshade accounting exercise. We are trying to balance the budget to give our children a better future.”
Gingrich also took some stabs at his political opponents.
“All of our friends on the left say they love children. They love them so much, they are going to drown them in debt and then pour red tape on top.”
Gingrich promised to hold out against any budget compromise that doesn’t keep GOP promises to cut the size and scope of government. “No deal is better than a bad deal,” Gingrich said, and the crowd roared agreement.
It was all music to the ears of West Side conservatives starved for soulmates.
“It feels so good for conservatives to finally come out of the closet,” said Karen Hobby, 50, of Renton.
“He’s my hero,” she said of Gingrich. “I’ve been a nervous wreck all week, I’ve been so excited about this.”
Steve Lowe, a 19-year-old student at the University of Washington, said he likes Gingrich for his “fresh vision.
“He’s unique. He’s not letting anyone stand in his way and I respect that. Newt is better for the younger generation. We need a government that doesn’t run up debt.”
After the rally, Gingrich headed to a $250-a-plate affair at Seattle’s Westin Hotel, expected to raise more than $200,000 to help Washington’s GOP Congressional delegation in the coming election.
Paul Berendt, state Democratic chairman, said Gingrich has energized Democrats.
“He can come here as often as he wants. It’s great for us,” Berendt quipped.
Congressman Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, joined a roster of the state’s top Democrats at a Seattle union hall to speak out against the GOP revolution, which they described as a reign of terror, wreaking havoc on kids, the elderly and poor.
Gov. Mike Lowry brought a standing-room-only crowd to its feet, urging Democrats to fight the Republican tide.
“When it’s all said and done we are here only a very short time. And the only thing that counts is that we make it a fair and more just world.”
McDermott predicted the GOP’s reign - and Newt Gingrich’s popularity - will wear thin. “One thing you learn on the West Coast is tides go in, and tides go out.”
But the GOP faithful see more gains ahead.
If they can’t realize their goals this year, it’s only because they don’t have a Republican in the White House, Gingrich said.
If voters really want to see what the GOP can do, elect a Republican for president, Gingrich urged.
“It takes more than one election to make a revolution.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo