OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP)-- The federal government could save billions of dollars by using better technology and must make domestic oil production a higher priority, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said during a subdued speech at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh on Friday.
Wisconsin's presidential primary is Tuesday, but Gingrich's campaign has badly flagged over the last week and he has all but conceded GOP front-runner Mitt Romney will earn enough delegates to capture the nomination. Still, Gingrich planned three appearances in northeastern Wisconsin on Friday, starting in Oshkosh.
About 200 people showed up for the speech, crowding around a stage in a far corner of a campus gymnasium. Gingrich showed up a half-hour late, so his wife, Callista, did her best to excite the crowd, saying she believes her husband can rebuild America and introducing him as "the next president of the United States.''
Gingrich began the speech by saying he is deeply committed to running in what is "literally the most important election in our lifetimes.''
Still, he seemed to lack passion. He spoke for only about 25 minutes and never seemed to engage the crowd. He made no mention of Romney or his other GOP rivals, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, choosing instead to criticize President Barack Obama. Gingrich called Obama a radical and declared there's no middle ground for Americans - they're either with Obama or with the "defenders of the constitution."
He said the government needs better computers, saying improved technology would save the nation between $60 billion and $110 billion a year in Medicaid and Medicare fraud.
"We'd have a stunningly efficient government,'' Gingrich said. He added that UPS and FedEx can track packages in real time but the federal government can't find 11 million illegal immigrants. Gingrich then suggested government officials send all the illegal immigrants packages so they could learn the immigrants' locations, which drew a few laughs from the crowd.
He then turned to a familiar theme, rising gas prices, saying the solution is to produce more domestic oil by opening more federal land for drilling and reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil. He also ripped Obama for not approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
Paul and Deb Stott made the two-and-a-half-hour trip from Tomah to see Gingrich at the urging of their 12-year-old daughter, Jenna.
Decked out in a red "Newt'' T-shirt and wearing a pin warning people not to believe the liberal media, Jenna said Gingrich has the best ideas of any of the candidates and he shouldn't give up.
"I still think there's time for the others to mess up badly,''Jenna said. "One mistake can change millions of votes.''
"He's so knowledgeable,'' Deb Stott, 49, chimed in. "He tells how he's going to do it.''
Chad Harrie, a 29-year-old political science major at UW-Oshkosh who stood through the speech, said Gingrich's views are extreme. He couldn't believe Gingrich suggested sending illegal immigrants packages so the government could track them.
"There was just a lot of lack of substance,'' Harrie said.
Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said Gingrich's comments sounded like "things that someone might say from Newt Gingrich's moon colony,'' a reference to Gingrich's goal to establish a permanent base on the moon.