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Gingrich plays to base on Obama's schooling, judges

AIKEN, S.C. -– Newt Gingrich targeted his GOP rivals (saying he has deeper knowledge of history than them) and President Obama, insinuating the president did not study American history.

“One of the things that makes me different from my friends,” Gingrich said of his Republican opponents for the nomination, “is I actually studied history. And unlike Obama, who’s clearly a very, very bright person, who graduated from Columbia and graduated from Harvard, I actually studied American history.”

That was greeted with laughs from the approximately 200 members of the Aiken Republican Club.

Obama’s college education has been the subject of conspiracy theories, claiming the president’s studies were concentrated in Marxism, which has led some prominent Republicans, including Donald Trump and Rick Perry, to pick up on the meme and call for the president to release his college transcripts.

Less than 20 minutes after Gingrich questioned the president’s grasp of American history, he invoked Obama’s Ivy League education as he challenged him to a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates.

“I just think something about that Harvard law school, that Columbia undergraduate, the elegance of the greatest orator of his generation,” Gingrich goaded, “he will just kind of feel compelled to prove he is unafraid,” to participate in a debate.

Gingrich is already planning to take on his primary opponent Herman Cain in such a debate in November, sponsored by the Texas Tea Party Patriots, which is charging between $200 and $1,000 per ticket.

And, of course, while President Obama is the presumptive presidential nominee for his party, Gingrich trails far behind in most polls.

Gingrich also played to the audience on judges, touting the strength and the ability of the executive branch, to “reshape the courts.” If necessary, it could abolish individual courts, Gingrich claimed, based on precedent set by Thomas Jefferson’s Judiciary Act of 1802.

What a presidential candidate will do about judges and justices is a key litmus test for conservative, especially very conservative voters in South Carolina, particularly on issues of abortion and business regulation.

During his speech, Gingrich also contrasted his ideas with those of his opponents, although he didn’t mention any of them by name.  He cited his experience as Speaker of the House of Representatives when explaining why his plan to balance the budget was better than those of his opponents.

“I have to confess, unlike some of my colleagues,” Gingrich said, “I don't have any consultants on balancing the budget. And I don’t have any talking points. I just have a decade of experience actually doing it.”

Gingrich saw a mass exodus of consultants and aides back in June and is $1.2 million in debt.

Gingrich also mentioned he will be making speeches soon in Iowa and South Carolina that will unveil his plan for brain-science research, an issue he frequently mentions on the trail. Because the plan will involve investment in research and development, Gingrich said it will “initially confuse many conservative intellectuals, because one of the things you can’t get across in Washington is the concept of investment. Everything is a cost.”