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Gingrich sounds familiar themes; Long-shot GOP presidential candidate makes his case for votes during local stop

For the approximately 300 fans greeting the former speaker of the House on Friday in Ellicott Square, it all amounted to a megadose of "pure Newt."

Indeed, Newt Gingrich drew on practically every theme of his long and apparently unsuccessful campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in a bid to keep alive a "conservative voice" at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Even as virtually every observer concedes that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will face President Obama in November, Gingrich made it clear Friday that he is not yet done; that he still has things to say.

And while he did not predict a victory in Tuesday's suddenly low-key GOP presidential primary in New York, he did forecast that he will gather delegates. He also took in an estimated $30,000 for a cash-starved campaign at a fundraiser in Ellicott Square, and made it clear he is still campaigning for votes.

"I'm here to ask for your vote on Tuesday because I think we need big solutions from the Republican Party," he told a gathering in the historic building's atrium. "You don't fix a Washington that is out of control with tiny baby steps."

Gingrich was introduced by 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino, who updated his trademark campaign question by asking, "Are you still mad as hell?"

Paladino -- a vocal supporter throughout the Gingrich candidacy -- said he was attracted by the former speaker's ability to define the issues as well as his knowledge of Washington's ways.

"This man should be our candidate -- and he will be," Paladino said.

But Gingrich made no such claims during his speech or during later remarks to reporters. He acknowledged he is disappointed his campaign did not vault him to the lead position Romney now holds, but believes he still accomplished some goals.

"I find that voters are very glad to have a conservative still in the race and to have a choice on Tuesday," he told reporters. "And while I get questions from reporters [about staying in the race], I don't get questions from voters. If you walked around downstairs and asked them, I think you'd find an awful lot of people saying 'Please stay in the race.' "

Gingrich broke no new ground in his visit to Buffalo. He delved into familiar territory like energy independence and his insistence that gasoline at $2.50 per gallon is a reachable goal, adding that emerging technologies can produce enough oil and natural gas to fuel the nation for more than a century.

He lambasted the president for presiding over a period of the highest unemployment since the Depression while at the same time watching gasoline soar to over $4 per gallon -- gaining some of his most enthusiastic applause. He again promised to repeal "Obamacare"; repeal the Dodd-Frank bill he said restricts business; abolish all White House "czars" and their portfolios unregulated by Congress; approve the Keystone oil pipeline put on hold by the president; and move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Gingrich again emphasized his pro-life views and his defense of gun rights, pointing to atrocities like those occurring in Sudan's Darfur region by people who are oppressed.

"You have to ask yourself -- if the innocent had the right to bear arms, maybe the predators would have been frightened," he said.

While national candidates often make local sports team references to connect with the crowd, Gingrich spoke at length of his admiration for the late Jack Kemp, the former Buffalo-area congressman and housing secretary, citing his "positive, optimistic approach."

"It's a great honor to be back in Jack Kemp's city," he said. "Jack, I think, had more to do with creating a growth- and jobs-oriented Republican Party than anyone in our lifetime except for Ronald Reagan."

An enthusiastic crowd pressed against a rope line after the speech to greet Gingrich, who was guarded by a phalanx of Secret Service agents.

Among the supporters was George Trimper, a Buffalo attorney, who said he has always been impressed by the former speaker's knowledge of history and his ability to debate.

"He's the man capable of addressing the issues one-on-one with Obama," he said.

And Kristian Jusko, a security officer holding 22-month-old Kristian Jr. on his shoulder, said he learned a lot of things from the Gingrich speech.

"Mitt Romney puts on a pretty face and states what he knows, but Newt gets right to the facts," he said.

Gingrich started his day in Buffalo with a visit to the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site on Delaware Avenue, according to Russ Gugino of Hamburg, who helped organize the event. Gugino said Gingrich is a TR fan who was "enthralled" by his visit to the site where Roosevelt took the oath of office.

Gingrich then starred at a brief reception in which he raised about $30,000 toward retiring his campaign debt, Gugino said. Gingrich also told reporters the purpose of his visit was not simply raising money, as evidenced by the crowd he attracted Friday.

Among those attending the fundraising event, Gugino said, were former County Executive Chris Collins, now running for Congress in the 27th District; and Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo. George Maragos, the Nassau County comptroller campaigning in Western New York this weekend for the Republican senatorial nomination, also appeared on the dais with Gingrich.