BUFFALO, N.Y. — Calling himself the underdog, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich appeared Friday at a rally thrown by a fellow underdog who went on to win the GOP nomination in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for New York governor, developer Carl Paladino.
"Gov. (Mitt) Romney's winning but he's only about halfway in what he needs for the nomination," Gingrich told several hundred supporters in Paladino's Ellicott Square Building downtown. "He can raise a lot more money than I can but I think we have a lot more people that he has."
Appealing to a sports town crowd with references to come-from-behind moments, "You know that people are supposed to play the whole game," he said to applause.
Speaking with reporters afterward, he stopped short of predicting he'd win Tuesday's primary in New York, where 95 delegates are at stake. Romney holds a substantial lead in the race for 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention.
"I think we have a shot at picking up delegates in New York," he said.
New York is one of five East Coast states holding primaries next week.
Romney is expected to easily win New York. An April 5 Quinnipiac University poll had Romney beating Rick Santorum by 54-21 percent among likely Republican voters. Gingrich came in at 9 percent and Ron Paul at 8 percent. The poll of 372 likely Republican primary voters was taken March 28-April 2, before Santorum suspended his campaign, and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.
Supporter Kristian Jusko of Buffalo said he's accustomed to being outnumbered as one of 16,000 Republicans in a city with 105,000 Democrats and supported Gingrich over Romney in part because Romney's "money is speaking more than his words."
"I've always been a supporter of Carl (Paladino). I figure Newt's the underdog just like Carl and I voted for him. Unfortunately, he didn't make it," said Jusko, who brought his 22-month-old son, Kristian Jr., to the rally.
Paladino earned a surprise 2010 primary victory over GOP front-runner Rick Lazio with the support of tea party voters, but lost to Democrat Andrew Cuomo in the general election by a nearly 2:1 margin.
After being introduced to the crowd by Paladino, Gingrich paid tribute to another local favorite, Jack Kemp, the late Buffalo Bills quarterback who represented western New York for nine terms in Congress and sought the GOP presidential nomination in 1988.
"Jack had more to do with creating a growth and jobs-oriented Republican party than anyone in our lifetime except Ronald Reagan and he was a tremendous leader," Gingrich said.
"I hope in some ways my campaign's focus on big solutions and positive approaches to job creation and American energy are in the tradition of Kemp and his positive, optimistic approach," he said.
Gingrich's visit was one of only a few candidate stops in New York during the primary season. Ron Paul spoke at Cornell University on Thursday. Gingrich was in New York City the same night for the Republican state committee dinner. The Romney campaign has not announced any New York appearances.