WAIKAPU - National Republican icon Newt Gingrich told members of the local GOP on Saturday that taking power in Hawaii was within their grasp.
The former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives railed against the administration of President Barack Obama, and thrilled island fans with his message that Republicans could take advantage of "the failures of the dominant party" in the state, which he described as beholden to special interests.
"You're in the early stages of growing a majority party in the state of Hawaii," Gingrich said at the $50 a plate GOP fundraiser for Maui County and state candidates.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks to the crowd as a vintage campaign poster for former President Ronald Reagan hangs from the podium Saturday morning at the King Kamehameha Golf Club. Gingrich spoke at a fundraiser for the Maui Republican Party.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Audrey Kent Wilson, of Haliimaile, raises her hand while agreeing with a comment made by Newt Gingrich on Saturday morning.
Former Maui County Republican Party Chairwoman Kay Ghean was ecstatic after the speech.
"He always makes my brain hurt because he expands your mind and makes you think bigger," Ghean said. "He has such a depth and perception; I just think he's incredible. He's gotta be our next president. Newt Gingrich in 2012."
Gingrich is best known for authoring "The Contract with America" and wresting control of the U.S. House from Democrats in the mid-1990s. He attracted a crowd for the breakfast at the King Kamehameha Golf Club with an enthusiastic audience of more than 150 active Republicans.
"Five years ago, we would have had 20 people here," said Tony Fisher, co-chairman of the Maui-based Committee for More Equitable Taxation. "We now think we have candidates that can win, even if it's a state that's so heavily Democratic leaning."
Gingrich dispensed advice for party-building, advising Republicans never to assume that any area is out of reach or owned by Democrats.
"Knock on every door, and see every person. It takes a lot of time, and it's very tiring," the Georgia resident said.
And Gingrich, who some speculate could be a presidential candidate in 2012, devoted part of his speech toward slamming Obama.
He said Obama's administration is anti-small business, and that his stimulus plan and other policies failed, because they will result in higher taxes and greater regulation of business.
"The danger of centralized power is that it eventually leads to dictatorship," Gingrich said.
Gingrich said, "Obamaism" is a set of secular policies that unfairly redistribute resources from the wealthy to the poor.
He also criticized the administration for extending unemployment benefits, saying the policy lessens people's incentive to get back to work.
The president's recovery strategy is not working and will leave the country worse off than before the economic meltdown, Gingrich said. The policies Obama has put into place only slow down growth, Gingrich said.
He told the mostly baby boomer crowd that the average 21 year old today will be paying twice as much federal taxes in his lifetime than his parents.
"We used to be a country that paid off the mortgage and left the children the farm, and now we're a country that sells the farm and leaves the children with the mortgage," Gingrich said.
If you can't afford to buy a house, "don't buy it, right?" he asked rhetorically. But he said the federal government has done everything it can for the past 25 years, from low- to no-interest loans, large tax credits and free down payments to help people buy homes they can't pay off.
Gingrich also stumped for Republican congressional candidate and Honolulu Council Member Charles Djou, who is in a race with former U.S. Rep. Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa for the congressional seat vacated by former Rep. Neil Abercrombie earlier this year. Abercrombie is a candidate for governor.
"We have a real chance to win that seat in the special election for Congress," said Gingrich.
Even though the district represents Honolulu and not Maui, Gingrich encouraged the crowd to call and e-mail their friends on Oahu and get out the vote for Djou.
"I thought it was wonderful," Fisher said about Gingrich's mix of national political commentary and local campaign strategy. "What he talked about was something my grandfather used to talk about that I think we've gotten away from: common sense."
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.