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Gingrich Tries To Scoop Up Votes In Fla.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. We begin with the latest in the Republican race for president. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney campaigned in Florida yesterday. Mr. Gingrich made appearances before two communities whose votes he hopes to win in Tuesday's primary. He spoke to Latino home builders and businesspeople in the morning, and had a rally with a group of Republican Jewish voters in the afternoon. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Gingrich has reached out to Tea Party groups and Chamber of Commerce Republicans, but he's courted no group as assiduously as Florida's Latino voters. He made two stops in Miami yesterday, the first before the Latin Builders Association. He gave his standard pitch which includes a call for reforming Social Security. He says young people should be given an option for personal savings accounts for Social Security, based on a program now in place in Chile.

NEWT GINGRICH: I think these kind of models can both create a bigger, better economy, give people a bigger reason to work because it's their money, and can help you dramatically approve the housing market and dramatically improve construction.

NAYLOR: Gingrich was hoping that his outreach to the Latin builders might win him their endorsement, especially after Mitt Romney declined to appear before the group. But instead, the builders gave their nod to Rick Santorum, whose campaign, lacking the resources to buy TV ads in the state, is struggling to gain traction. Gingrich then addressed another Latino group, the Hispanic Leadership Network. To them he said this nation has for too long neglected Latin America, which he said was dangerous and foolish. He singled out Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, and said the U.S. should act to remove him from power.

GINGRICH: And I think we should take an aggressive strategy, a non-military strategy, but an aggressive strategy of replacing Chavez and giving the people of Venezuela the opportunity to live in freedom.

NAYLOR: Gingrich also repeated his call for a Cuban spring to help the people of Cuba; in his words, liberate themselves. He also had an idea about one way to go about it.

GINGRICH: So one of my goals would be to nonviolently flood the island with enough cells phones that are video cameras that any active repression gets filmed by thirty people, and we start posting it. This person will be on the list after the revolution.

NAYLOR: Gingrich also reached out to South Florida's Jewish voters, most of whom, but not all are Democrats. In a brief appearance before reporters, he warned a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to another Holocaust.

GINGRICH: That is a fact which people should confront. Two or three nuclear weapons, placed properly in Israel is the equivalent of a second Holocaust, and people need to confront it now before it happens.

NAYLOR: Gingrich has a hectic weekend of campaigning in Florida. He's hoping to recapture the momentum that peaked when he won South Carolina's primary a week ago. That momentum appears to have stalled in Florida, where a barrage of negative ads, lackluster debate performances, and a united GOP establishment has him playing catch up to Romney in the polls. Brian Naylor, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.