- (Photo: Reuters/Steve Marcus)
Newt Gingrich, who received a drubbing in Saturday night's Nevada caucuses, dismissed rumors that he was dropping out of the presidential race. He also appeared to be courting Christian conservative voters recently by describing America's elites as "anti-religious bigots."
"I am a candidate for the president of the United States. I will be a candidate for president of the United States," former House Speaker Gingrich told reporters at a conference in Las Vegas, Nev., on Saturday, hours before Fox News projected Mitt Romney as the winner with Gingrich and Ron Paul competing for the second place.
Gingrich indicated that Romney's victory in Nevada – where one-fourth of the Republican voters are from the Mormon faith, which Romney is a member of – was not demoralizing for him. He charged that the former Massachusetts governor was behind the rumor, describing Romney as a "pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase" candidate who is "fundamentally dishonest" in debates.
To gain an edge over Romney, Gingrich appears to be wooing Christian conservatives. Ahead of the Nevada caucuses, he blasted "secular intellectuals" for their "anti-religious" agenda.
"An anti-religious bigotry defines much of our intellectual elites," Gingrich told a coalition of religious leaders in a speech at the International Church of Las Vegas on Friday. He also criticized judges for making an attempt to cause "the end of America as we know it," according to Reuters.
Gingrich also blasted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a ban on religious worship services in public schools. "This is nonsense. I don't know why Mayor Bloomberg is so anti-religious," Gingrich was quoted as saying. "I challenge Mayor Bloomberg to open up schools on the weekends."
The city is likely to end religious services in public schools by Feb. 12, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's denial in December to review a lower-court decision against an evangelical church in the Bronx that asked the court to direct the city to allow churches to rent public schools on weekends. However, some lawmakers in New York are trying to enact Assembly Bill A8800 that would prevent school districts from excluding groups from meeting on school property.
Gingrich also condemned President Barack Obama's administration for "a direct war on freedom of religion" while campaigning in Nevada.
Romney is also focusing his criticism on Obama, but not so much on religious issues. "America needs a president who can fix the economy because he understands the economy, and I do, and I will," Romney said after early projections of his victory in Nevada Saturday.
After the Nevada caucuses, the candidates will now head into Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Maine.