By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that a victory in Georgia's primary is a "key building block" his campaign must have to move forward, making clear his home state's crucial role in his White House bid.
Gingrich predicted during an appearance at the Georgia Statehouse that he will win the state's contest. Georgia is one of 10 holding primaries and caucuses next Tuesday and Gingrich predicted he'd "win it decisively."
"That is the key building block that we have to have to move forward in the presidential campaign. Georgia really does matter," Gingrich said. He was joined by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and a few dozen legislators, but took no questions from reporters.
The former House speaker has made clear he needs a win in Georgia on Super Tuesday, but has stopped short of saying a loss would force him from the race. He told CNN on Tuesday that "we unequivocally have to win Georgia."
Betting on the South, Gingrich skipped primaries in Michigan and Arizona — both won by Mitt Romney — to save money and focus on delegate-rich states that vote with Georgia on March 6, including Tennessee, Ohio and Oklahoma.
Gingrich is trying to rebound from a series of losses after his sole win in South Carolina and catapult ahead of Rick Santorum as a conservative alternative to Romney. Gingrich has said the nomination fight could go all the way to the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August.
His cause has been bolstered by an outside committee called Winning Our Future that has received several million dollars from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The money paid for ads critical of Romney.
The super PAC currently is airing ads in seven states through Super Tuesday that are targeted by Gingrich's campaign, seeking to undercut Romney's argument that he is the most formidable Republican to challenge President Barack Obama.
Gingrich started the day with an address to the Georgia Legislature, warning that the nation could face a catastrophe in the Middle East that could hurt the economy and drive up energy prices. He has repeatedly criticized Obama for rising gasoline prices and has vowed to develop an energy plan that would drop the price to $2.50 a gallon.
The former Georgia congressman was courting voters in his home state through Friday. He planned to campaign in Ohio on Saturday and in Tennessee on Monday.
Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas