ORLANDO, Fla.--There was music. There was cheering. There were booze. But it's not victory party time quite yet.
Think of it more as a pregame celebration.
Arriving an hour late to his "finish line rally"--plenty of time for the attendees to hit up the cash bar outside the small hotel conference room--Newt Gingrich hosted an Election Night Eve party for supporters at the Renaissance Hotel here, one day before the Florida primary. Perhaps a sign of how the former House Speaker will fare in Tuesday's contest, the room wasn't totally packed, but like most of Gingrich's events here, the level of enthusiasm ran high.
Several state polls released this week show Mitt Romney with a comfortable lead in the state, but publicly, Gingrich continues to predict victory.
"With your help, we are going to win a decisive victory tomorrow," Gingrich said. "With your help, we're going to go on to win across the whole country."
But if you're wondering how the Gingrich campaign is really feeling about their candidate's chances on Tuesday, consider this: They're officially referring to the actual party Tuesday night as a "primary party." They called it a "victory party" in South Carolina.
On stage, Gingrich used his time to hammer home his message against Romney, gleefully discussing a recent Reuters interview with billionaire George Soros, a financier of left-wing causes, in which he said there "isn't all that much difference" between Romney and Obama. Each time Gingrich repeats the story of Soros' comments on the Republican primary, however, Soros' praise of Gingrich seems to grow larger and larger. As Gingrich told it Monday night, Soros not only said that the separation between the president and Gingrich's opponent was slim, but that the former House Speaker was the "only one who could bring about real change." In reality, Soros wasn't nearly that celebratory of Gingrich, but whatever, it was a party.
In his remarks, Gingrich also hinted that he was eyeing Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, for vice president after an excited supporter shouted from the crowd about possible veep picks.
"I'm not going to get into the vice president. First I have to win the nomination," Gingrich said. "But I will say you have a U.S. Senator who looks awfully good."
(Freebie: He wasn't talking about Bill Nelson.)
At Gingrich's side was Michael Reagan, his new lead surrogate and the adopted son of former President Ronald Reagan, there to push back against challenges to Gingrich's claim to to be a "Regan conservative." For the past week, Gingrich has upheld Michael Reagan's endorsement as evidence of Gingrich's commitment to the conservative icon, despite a line-up of Reagan confidants that have come out on behalf of Romney to cast doubt on Gingrich's version of history.
Reagan, who introduced Gingrich, closed with words of inspiration for the crowd. "You're looking for Reagan?" he said. "He's living inside of you. Each and every one of you."
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