After losing several southern primaries this month, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich came to Delaware this week looking for support from the state’s Republican voters who will cast their ballots in Delaware’s winner-take-all presidential primary April 24. The victor will receive 17 delegates.

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich promised Delaware Republicans $2.50 gas and energy independence Monday night.

After losing several southern primaries this month, Gingrich came to Delaware this week looking for support from the state’s Republican voters who will cast their ballots in Delaware’s winner-take-all presidential primary April 24. The victor will receive 17 delegates.

Gingrich is the first presidential candidate to visit the First State in this election campaign. He spent the day Monday speaking with media at Delaware’s Republican headquarters in Wilmington, taking part in fundraisers and meeting with the state’s GOP leaders.

He capped the night with a speech in front of nearly 400 Delawareans who packed the Hockessin Fire Hall to see him.

“I think Delaware’s a great opportunity for us because it is a size state where a candidate with limited money can really make an impact by personal contact,” Gingrich told reporters at the GOP headquarters earlier in the day. “Winning Delaware would be part of resetting the whole race.”

Gingrich, who is behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in the polls, is looking for a little bit of “chaos” come June 26.

“If we get to June 26 and [Romney] doesn’t have 1,144 delegates, you’re going to see the most wide-open, fascinating electronic convention for 60 days as the country asks the question, ‘Who can beat Barack Obama?’” Gingrich said. “In 60 days of talking about who can beat Obama, I think I have a very realistic chance.”

The speaker made energy independence his primary focus Monday night saying the U.S. should never have to rely on countries in the Middle East.

“What we need is an American energy policy so that no future president will ever again bow to a Saudi king,” Gingrich said. 

He also made sure to talk about job creation. Citing North Dakota’s 3.5-percent unemployment rate, Gingrich said with the right training, hundreds of unemployed in that state could fill the jobs currently vacant in the oil field.

“One of my proposals for modernizing unemployment compensation is that we have a training requirement,” he said. “If you sign up for unemployment compensation, you have to take a business training program during the period in which we’re giving you money.

“It is truly wrong to give people money for doing nothing. It teaches the wrong habits, it wastes their potential, it diverts their life.”

Several members of the Delaware General Assembly were on hand Monday both at the Wilmington headquarters and at the fire hall to offer their support for the former speaker.

While several are remaining neutral until April 24, others pledged their full support to Gingrich.

“He understands at a level that I don’t think anyone else in Washington does that the American people are driven by great ideas and great moral purpose,” said Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover), who introduced Gingrich as the man he believes will be the next president of the United States. “He is the only candidate with this purpose and the ideas to move us forward.”

Delaware Republican Party Chairman John Sigler said he is not endorsing a candidate until the primary results are revealed, and other party members, like Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) and Sen. Liane Sorenson (R-Hockessin) followed suit.

“I believe if all of the Republican candidates carry themselves the way Speaker Gingrich did tonight, keeping their eye on the target of who they’re actually running against, I think it will be a very healthy race for the Republican party from now until the primary,” Ramone said. “That’s as long as they stay focused on contrasting themselves from the issues in the White House now and how they can bring solutions.”

Several attendees praised Gingrich for his energy proposals and said they plan to support him.

JoAnn and Mike Janis of Hockessin pointed to the speech itself, saying he came with a clear point and stayed on topic.

“He’s the smartest kid in the class,” said Mike, who noted he was a Democrat before this election season. “He could talk Obama under the table in about five minutes, and that’s without a teleprompter.” 

Janet Foltz of Hartly said she has always been a supporter of Gingrich.

“I believe in his energy ideas,” she said. “I just can’t understand why the rest of the country isn’t behind him.”

Gingrich said he has no plans to bow out of the election from now until June 26.

“It is possible to create an extraordinary election this fall,” he said. “It really will set this country on the right track. It will not just change the White House, it will change the Senate and the House. It will change the agenda and move this country in the right direction.”