ATLANTA -- Newt Gingrich has called his home state of Georgia "vital" to the continuation of campaign, and on Wednesday predicted he would win the state "decisively" when voters go to the polls on Super Tuesday.
The 20-year Georgia congressman is campaigning extensively in the state this week, and is counting on the support of several longtime friends and former colleagues to help him pull off a large victory on March 6, when 10 states will hold primaries. Polls show him with a comfortable lead over rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, though his margin has dwindled in recent weeks.
"I really believe with the help of my many friends here that we're going to win the Georgia primary and win it decisively," Gingrich told reporters today at the State Capitol in Atlanta, where he was surrounded by Gov. Nathan Deal and dozens of state lawmakers who are backing him. "That is the key building block that we have to have to move forward in the presidential campaign."
His campaign has signaled for a long time that it is betting its survival on a strong showing in several of the southern states that vote on Super Tuesday. In addition to Georgia, the former House speaker will visit Ohio on Saturday and Tennessee on Monday, before returning to the Peach State on the day Georgians visit the polls.
In an interview with CBS Radio, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond acknowledged that the immediate focus of the campaign was to do well in Georgia, which will award the most delegates on Super Tuesday. But after that, he predicted a long and drawn-out battle between the remaining candidates all the way to the Republican Convention in Tampa."
"We're going to go months beyond Super Tuesday before we have clarity," Hammond said. "And what that means is, the way the delegates are awarded this cycle - the way the rules are set up - it's primed to go to Tampa."