DES MOINES — As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich collected endorsements this morning from the Iowa and New Hampshire house speakers during a press conference at the Iowa State Capitol, protesters from the Occupy Des Moines movement disrupted the accolades with loud chants of “Put people first!’’
Gingrich paused and turned to look warily at the commotion behind him while several protesters were hastily escorted out of the intimate, stately room framed with gold curtains and gilded doorways.
“I was at the University of Iowa the other day and that same 1/10th of 1 percent – all noise, no thought – tried to drown out the conversation,’’ Gingrich said, referring to protestors he encountered last week on the trail.
Moments earlier he had received the endorsements of Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien, who had flown into the Hawkeye State for the announcement. Gingrich and O’Brien will appear in New Hampshire later today.
“He’s a Washington outsider, and he’s ready to shatter DC’s status quo,’’ Paulsen said of the former speaker who has been out of office for 13 years.
Gingrich himself said, “There’s so much hostility to me in the Washington establishment because I intend to change it.’’ He called Congress “dysfunctional’’ and President Obama “inept.’’
With regards to the payroll tax cut stand-off in Congress, Gingrich said, “It is an absurd dereliction of duty. It’s game playing.’’
Gingrich is the candidate to make the government “less of an impediment to our living,’’ said O’Brien, who said he’s a strong believer in the New Hampshire motto of “live free or die.’’
Gingrich, who has been hammered in Iowa by television ads attacking his record but who has not generated the fundraising to respond in kind, used the press conference as an opportunity to call for campaign civility.
“I call on my colleagues to drop the negativity, run positive ads,’’ Gingrich implored.
Following the press conference, the nine protesters and a hoard of media trailed Gingrich and his wife Callista to his SUV with the protesters shouting, “Newt, you’re not welcome here and we’ll be waiting for you in New Hampshire. We’re going to come for you everywhere you go.’’
Ross Grooters, one of the protesters, said to reporters after Gingrich and his entourage sped away that he’s calling awareness to politicians who put companies and corporations before people.
“Gingrich is supporting policies designed to benefit companies and people that he’s getting millions of dollars from,’’ said Grooters, a 37-year-old railroad engineer from Des Moines.
Jessica Reznicek, a 30-year-old history and political science student at Simpson College, said the group chose to disrupt the press conference rather than attend a town hall.
“We don’t have the money the 1 percent have,’’ she said. “We only have our bodies and our voices so this is the only way we can get our message out.’’
While current speakers of the House from the states with the first-in-the-nation caucuses and primaries lined up behind Gingrich, former Massachusets governor Mitt Romney has the support of previous speakers from Iowa and New Hampshire.
His campaign announced today the endorsements of former Iowa House Speaker Brent Siegrist and former New Hampshire House Speakers Harold Burns and George Roberts. They join former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants and former New Hampshire House Speakers Donna Sytek, John Tucker, and Doug Scamman in supporting Romney.