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Gingrich makes surprise appearance at wife's book signing event

Anderw Rafferty/NBC News

Newt Gingrich makes an unannounced appearance with his wife, Callista, at her book-signing event Saturday at Mount Vernon, Va.

MOUNT VERNON, VA -- The front runner for the Republican presidential nomination accompanied his wife and a mascot elephant at a book signing Saturday on the grounds of George Washington's famous estate.

Newt Gingrich made a surprise appearance with his wife, Callista, at Mount Vernon. The event was originally billed as a solo appearance by Callista Gingrich to sign copies of her children's book "Sweet Land of Liberty."

According to campaign spokesman RC Hammond, organizers at Mount Vernon did not want Newt's appearance to be advertised over concerns about crowd size and the perception that a lasting symbol of the country's first president was getting politically active in the 2012 race.

Gingrich's appearance came just hours before the Des Moines Register was scheduled to reveal its endorsement. The former House speaker picked up the support of the New Hampshire Union Leader last month. Picking up the backing of the first caucus state's largest newspaper in addition to the first primary state's largest newspaper could be a tremendous boast for the candidate going into the start of the primary season.

"I'm not confident about anything," Gingrich said about his prospects of a Register endorsement. "I look forward to see what they do."

Hundreds showed up to the two-hour event, and 200 copies of the book were sold. Gingrich went on to attend a Christmas concert featuring his wife playing French horn.