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Rally for Believers Drowns Out Newt Naysayer

Republican candidate Newt Gingrich speaks at a rally in Tampa in the hours leading up to the GOP Presidential Debate at the University of South Florida.

The crowd meeting Newt Gingrich at The River of Tampa Bay church Monday in Mango was, as expected, sympathetic to the Repubilcan presidential candidate, who enters the Florida primary season with the wind behind his back.

There was, however, one voice, that of Dianna Barrios, a 46-year-old paralegal, who rang out against Gingrich, whose decisive win in the South Carolina primary gives Mitt Romney a run for his money with Florida voters.

“You are not a Reagan conservative,” Barrios said, more than once, and clearly in contest to Gingrich’s assertion that he is a Reagan populist conservative.

“It’s a free country, let her talk,” Gingrich said, as the crowd sympathetic to the former House speaker booed in displeasure with her outburst. “Mitt’s allowed to have two people out of this number” of attendees.

The remark drew laughs and applause and within minutes, Barrios and the man in her company, were escorted out of the square and to their van.

This was a rally for the believers.

Count among them Pat Trujillo, Carolyn Hankins and Diane Trautz, a trio of women who eagerly awaited their chosen candidate.

Hankins said she was a "new supporter" because "after a lot of soul-searching and prayer, I thought he was candidate most likely to lead this country and to lead it to where I want to go."

Also, she said, because Gingrich was supported "by the previous people in leadership that I respected."

When asked about the headlines that attest to Gingrich's former wife's assertion that he had asked for an open marriage, Hankins said: "I don't believe it."

"I don't approve of open marriage, but I don't believe it," she said of the assertion. "Also, people can make mistakes and they can be forgiven, because we're all not perfect."

In the crowd stood a frail woman, who in July turns 90, and who carried with her a sign stating: "I'm 90 and strong for Newt."

"If I was 50 years younger I'd flirt with him. He's cute," Levine said. "And he's intelligent. I like smart people. I hope I live long enough to vote for Newt."

The candidate took a moment to shake her hand, as she made her way within eyesight after Gingrich worked his way through the crowd after his remarks.

In those remarks he promised that if knighted the Republican candidate, " I will challenge Obama to seven, three-hour debates," he said. "He can use a teleprompter in advance if he wants to. If you have to defend Obamacare, wouldn't you want a teleprompter?"

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