Here in Iowa, the organization Iowa Against Alzheimer's estimates there are 69,000 people over the age of 65 with the disease. Take their spouses and children and relatives and friends -- along with other people so far unaffected by the disease but worried about it -- and you've got a very large group. They vote, and Gingrich wants to reach them.
Gingrich has test-run the idea in a few recent public forums here and in other early voting states.
"In South Carolina, a tea party leader walked up and said, 'My dad died three years ago with Alzheimer's, and I understand exactly what you are trying to accomplish,'" Gingrich says. "People can have a checklist in their head that says on these things, Newt Gingrich understands my world and is trying to make it better." Gingrich plans to work the message into his speeches and discussions with voters more often as voting approaches.
Whatever Gingrich is doing these days, it's working. Thanks in part to impressive performances in several GOP debates, he is moving up in the polls, both nationally and in key early states. He's raising money again after a meltdown -- a massive staff defection and damaging stories about big-spending habits at Tiffany -- that nearly killed his campaign a few months ago. And voters appear to appreciate his sticking with it. In discussions across Iowa in the last week, it is striking how many voters volunteer Gingrich's name as someone they're finding more and more appealing. If either of the current front-runners, Herman Cain or Mitt Romney, were to falter, Gingrich is in a position to benefit greatly.
And he's doing it his own way. Which other candidate would take a large part of a critical day to talk science when the campaign trail beckons, with local officials to meet and hands to shake?
"We'll see if it works," Gingrich says with a laugh. "It's a great experiment."
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