Newt Gingrich just wanted to talk a little brain research, but he could hardly get in a word over hecklers during a campaign stop on University of Iowa campus on Wednesday.
About 15 Occupy Iowa City protesters took turns heckling the former House Speaker. The disruption went on for several minutes.
The protesters were scattered throughout an audience of about 300 people in a packed auditorium on campus and handed out scripts to each other a little before the event began. The protesters had a rehearsed message that they shouted in unison, berating the former speaker for his "callous attitude toward poor people" and support for a change to child labor laws. The speech continued as some protesters were escorted out.
Meanwhile, other members of the audience turned to tell them to quiet down and that they had had their chance for free speech. One man yelled loudly, "Who here wants to listen to Mr. Gingrich speak," which got a spirited response of approval from the crowd.
The GOP presidential front-runner meanwhile, who surged from nowhere to the top of the polls in recent weeks, patiently waited at his podium for it all to play out. He didn't say anything, but had a wry smile on his face.
When the heckling subsided, Gingrich spoke to the crowd, who had by this point started to cheer as protesters left.
"The fact is that with the irrational opposition we are going to face, we need to recognize the election is the beginning of the change. The election isn't the end of the process. So, I ask people to be with me for eight years, so we can get the kind of change we need in this country," Gingrich said.
In a nod to the Occupy movement, Gingrich continued.
"I appreciate the fact that 95 percent of you, maybe even 99 percent of you (applause from the crowd) are willing to actually have an intelligent discussion and not be drowned out by the 1 percent who are trying to impose their will," Gingrich said.
The event was scheduled at the University's College of Medicine to focus on a passion of Gingrich's health care, specifically brain research. After this initial interruption, it resumed as planned.
Gingrich spoke to the crowd about the need for advancing Alzheimer's and other brain research, reasoning that reducing the amount people need to care for people with brain ailments would end up saving the country billions of dollars in the long run.
Some medical students who listened to Gingrich said they liked some of what he had to say.
"I think it's an interesting idea, it just needs more details so I know how it would be implemented," said Eric Heller, a first year medical student at the University of Iowa from Beulah, North Dakota.
Heller, an Obama supporter, said while he may agree with some of the things the Occupy protesters had to say, he thought their interruption was rude and somewhat counterproductive.
"In the long run, it's probably not going to achieve much, so it was pretty disrespectful," Heller said.
Fellow first year student David Junge, of Sioux City, said he plans to caucus this coming January.
"The speech was interesting, I didn't really know what to expect," Junge said. "I don't think this will swing my decision one way or the other, though."
Meeting the press afterward, Gingrich was asked how he plans to address some of the issues raised by Occupy protesters.
"I would have been delighted to talk to them about what we can do to create jobs," Gingrich said.
He also said that there should be different ways to reduce student debt amounts, including privatizing the student loan system once again.
Gingrich was also asked about surging opponent Ron Paul, and if he's worried about Paul's strong grassroots support network in Iowa.
"He's a very formidable opponent, and in a caucus state he can turnout the vote," Gingrich said.
Gingrich also said his taking the time to talk about brain science was representative of the positive, idea based campaign he's trying to run.
"They should run their campaign the way they want to, and I should run the campaign the way I want to," Gingrich said. "I like where we are now."
On Wednesday evening, the former Speaker of the House will be joining GOP rivals Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines for the premier of "The Gift of Life." This is a documentary about abortion issues being presented by 2008 GOP presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
That event begins at 7 p.m.