MILWAUKEE, Wisc. -- Making his first campaign stop in the Badger State, Newt Gingrich was quick to share his Wisconsin ties.
“We own a share of Green Bay stock so we have ties to the whole state in that sense,” Gingrich said, adding that his wife, Callista, grew up here and her mother still resides in White Hall.
The former House Speaker addressed a few hundred people at Marquette University and wrapped up his almost hour-long lecture speaking about the popular Wisconsin Congressman, Paul Ryan.
Gingrich praised the Wisconsin native hours after the Republican budget passed the house and just as news began to speculate that Ryan would endorse Mitt Romney before Tuesday’s primary in the state.
“His budget is very, very positive and it’s very exciting,” the Speaker said, acknowledging that Ryan responded well to critiques. “His budget is dramatically better than the Congressional Budget Office will score it because the bureaucrats at CBO completely misunderstand the power of people changing their behavior and it’s really unfortunate.”
Ryan, who represents Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional district, saw his $3.5 trillion budget plan pass the House Thursday will all but ten Republicans voting in favor of it.
But last May, Gingrich referred to Ryan’s plan as “right wing social engineering,” showing little admiration for the Republican budget proposal on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich (R-GA) Â said, "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering" to explain why he thinks Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) plan is "too big a jump."
Tonight, Gingrich’s tone was different, and he said his remarks last spring were “vastly overblown by the news media.”
“I’ve always endorsed his [Ryan’s] proposal to block grant Medicare, I mean Medicaid, I think it’s a good idea. And I admire both his intelligence and his courage because he’s doing a lot of things,” he said.
While tonight mark’s Gingrich’s first appearance in the state, Callista has been campaigning on her husband’s behalf all week – her first solo campaign trip all cycle.
While there were few applause lines for Gingrich in the college auditorium, there was a lively back and forth between one attendee and the Speaker over where your rights come from.
After listening to Gingrich describe “American values,” a man questioned if Gingrich meant specifically Christian values and how that is fair under the first amendment and freedom of religion.
“What about people who maybe are agnostic or atheist. What about those Americans?” the man in the audience, who left as soon as the interaction was over, asked.
“They can live here but they have no explanation of where their rights come,” Gingrich shot back.
This back and forth continued for almost five minutes until the Speaker finally said, “next question.”
Gingrich, who is struggling to remain seen as a credible candidate, holds three events in Wisconsin on Friday – including a Green Bay Brats and Beer Rally.