TAMPA, Fla — Newt Gingrich kicked off “Newt University” — a characteristic hybrid of a campaign event, business venture, and effort by the Republican Party to keep Gingrich busy — in a modest-sized, half-full hotel ballroom today, a room dominated by a large stand of cameras.
The event is the beginning of a sort of intellectual track of Republican politics, financed by the Republican Party and slated to last through the election. It’s carried by KAPx, the distance-learning platform of the Washington Post-owned for-profit education company Kaplan, Inc., though a Gingrich spokesman said Kaplan was just a vendor, not a partner, in the effort.
The aim, Gingrich spokesman RC Hammond told BuzzFeed, is to allow Republicans to understand “why we say these things” and to “win arguments in their communities.” It’s modeled, for Gingrich, in part on his GOPAC tapes, training cassettes for electoral politics that were the viral media of their day, the 1980s and 1990s.
“Lady Thatcher said that first you win the argument and then you win the vote,” Gingrich told his audience, complaining that “we tell the truth less effectively than Democrats lie.”
The performance was vintage Gingrich, and he opened with one of his favorite topics: Space exploration.
A short tribute to Neil Armstrong, who died last week and was the first man to walk on the moon, segued into Gingrich’s thoughts on innovation — and, as with any real-life professor, a syllabus.
The course goals: “Creating a fact-based campaign,” Gingrich said, and finding “new-generation solutions.”
Class was in session; the students, a few dozen of Republicans of all ages, including a sizable Kansas contingent, along with a couple dozen members of the media.
In keeping with the political discourse of the past few weeks, particularly in Florida, Medicare was the lecture topic of chief importance.
Gingrich asked, “What if we took the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, 200,000 apps for the iPhone model” and encouraged Americans to develop better solutions for Medicare?
But even among the Republican Party’s most faithful, the problem to be solved was unclear: In a poll question asked of audience members, the preponderance said Obama’s health care law would cut Medicare by $500 billion.
With the professor off the stage, a master of ceremonies corrected the class, echoing the more-than-$700 billion figure that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have repeated on the campaign trail. (Paul Ryan’s budget proposal would splice about that much, as well.)
The class nodded.