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Small crowd with lots of fight greets Newt Gingrich in Orlando

Newt Gingrich  arrived 55 minutes late to a sparsely attended event in Orlando, then dropped a planned town hall format after less than 7 minutes of remarks to mingle and pose for pictures.

“My competitor on Tuesday has money power,” Gingrich said, explaining why he was changing the format of the event.

“There’s no question he can raise more money from Wall Street than I can. And he has big institutions pouring money in here. What I want to do is have people power. So I want to chat with each one of you personally.and ask each of you to go out on Facebook and on You tube and on Twitter and email, even by telephone and talk to people face to face.”

Gingrich had billed the event as an Hispanic town hall at the Centro de la Familia Cristiana – Christian Family Center - in Orlando. But only about 60 people showed up, and about 420 of the roughly 480 seats went empty. Hosts twice asked people to move to the front rows and center seats to fill in the hall, as they waited for Gingrich.

He mentioned his call for a “Cuban spring,” and his call to repeal the Dodd-Frank bill.

He mentioned Romney twice – once in the opening about Romney’s campaign money and once to say that Romneycare is the same as Obamacare.

“We have a very big decision in a very short time. I want to ask you to talk to all of ytour friends and neighbors. I have a very simple case. We nominated a moderate in 1996 and we lost. We nominated a moderate in 2008 and we lost. I believe only a solid conservative can debate Barack Obama and win.”

 James Baumann, an accountant from Groveland, supports Gingrich: “If anybody knows how Congress works, knows how the system works, it’s Newt.”

He said that’s important because he wants the next president to be able to repeal the Obama health care law and shrink government.

“He is an intellect, and an independent one,” Baumann said. "He can be tenacious. In the debates. He has proven that tenacity is quality people want. In the early debates, he would say we all get along. That didn’t work.”

Baumann disliked the fact that “Romney reflects the political establishment. He is party line.” He also thinks the fact that Romney's a businessman is no plus.

“I’m a businessman, but I’m not sure that you should run government like a business. Government is not a business,” he said.

-- Steve Thomma