MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich refused to be pinned down Tuesday as a believer in creationism or evolution as the origin of human life during a gathering of Minnesota social conservatives, where he also endured a protester’s confetti shower.
The former House speaker adopted a nuanced stance in the thorny debate over how life first formed, telling his Minnesota Family Council audience that both theological and scientific views can be right.
“I believe that creation as an act of faith is true and I believe that science as a mechanical process is true,” Gingrich said at an afternoon session that preceded a more formal address. “Both can be true. I don’t think there is necessarily a conflict between the two.”
The answer left skeptics among the audience, the type Gingrich is working particularly hard to soothe in the early days of his campaign.
Retired plumber Marty Gavic said Gingrich’s unwillingness to embrace creationism is a strike against his candidacy.
“When he talks about God in government, then I believe if he’s a Godly man he should say that `I believe God created the heavens and earth because that’s in the Bible,”‘ said Gavic, who was among a few dozen people who sat through a screening of a film Gingrich co-produced on religion in American government.
Gingrich interrupted a 17-city Iowa campaign swing for the stop in Minneapolis, which featured a book signing, the screening of “Rediscovering God inn America” and a closed-to-media dinner speech. Gingrich said he was paid to appear, but terms were not disclosed.
During the book signing, a protester poured a cracker box full of glittery confetti over Gingrich and his wife, Callista. The man was shoved from the room by a Family Council member.
Gingrich went on with the book signing before heading to a private reception and the dinner, which was also due to include remarks from Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. She is also weighing a Republican bid for president and expects to announce her plans soon.
Speaking to reporters, Gingrich downplayed his outreach to social conservatives, some of whom have raised doubts about his character because of past infidelity and multiple marriages.
“You have ground to make up with every American on something. Somebody wants to know about your tax policy, somebody else wants to know about your personal life, someone else wants to know about what you’re going foreign affairs,” Gingrich said. “If you’re going to run for the highest office in the land, you have to be prepared to go around and listen to people across the board.”
He did find some fans in the room.
“Intellectually I think he holds more capacities than any president we’ve had for decades,” said Brian Tommerdahl, a business owner from Champlin who said he is inclined to support Gingrich for president but not yet fully committed. “I’ve been waiting 10 years for him to announce.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)