ORLANDO, Fla. -- On the schedule, it was billed as a Newt Gingrich "Hispanic town hall." On fliers at the door, it was billed as the "Hispanic event of the primary."
Inside it looked like this:
A room able to fit 900 people had drawn only around 100 voters. "This was an event for the Hispanic leadership of churches," said Peter Vivaldi, an organizer and the head of NALEC. "The intent wasn't to fill it up." But it wasn't a room of Hispanic leaders. I talked to a few, but I saw just as many caucusian voters who simply wanted to see Newt. The campaign brushed it off: They hadn't whipped their list of supporters.
The speaker used the opportunity to make time. He was around 50 minutes late to this event; he scrapped the "town hall" portion of it, and offered to "shake hands, personally" with anyone who wanted to meet him. "This is a campaign of people power," he explained. It worked: Gingrich was only 25 minutes late to his next event. And he didn't bother his base.
"Oh, I've seen him a few times already," said Newt volunteer Carol McCall. "He's brilliant -- he's beyond brilliant." It was enough to shake his hand.