Ohio GOP delegates in Tampa got a surprise visit Monday from a man who had run for the GOP presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who sang the praises of drilling for more Ohio oil and natural gas as a campaign issue.
Gingrich, who is making the rounds of key state delegations, argued that scientists have recently found Ohio - particularly eastern Ohio - has 42 times as much natural gas beneath its surface as previously thought; and said that Republicans could use that energy resource as a way to win votes this fall.
"I want an energy policy that guarantees that no president ever again bows to a Saudi king,'' said Gingrich, whose own bid for the presidential nomination failed midway through the primaries.
"There is evidence that Ohio may have more oil than the north slope of Alaska,'' Gingrich told the delegates and guests gathered in the Mainsail Suites Conference Center Monday afternoon.
"Mitt Romney will say that we can have an energy policy in this nation that will allow us to say bye, bye to the Saudis and good luck,'' Gingrich said.
The practice of fracking - drilling down through shale into natural gas reserves and then drilling sideways to pick up the natural gas in other pockets - is a technology that has been around 60 years and can be done safely, without harm to the environment.
He cited polling done his "Newt University" think tank shows that over 70 percent of the American people support for oil and natural gas exploration, including people in Ohio.
"One of the problems with modern conservatism is that we have the diagnoses, but we don't have the prescription right,'' Gingrich said. "We have to something we are not very good at - we have to tell the truth better than they lie."
Tomorrow morning, at the delegation's daily breakfast, they will hear from another former GOP presidential contender, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.