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Gingrich touts new tome at Huntington bookstore

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pulled into the Book Revue in Huntington Tuesday night - the latest stop on a book tour for a new historical novel he co-wrote, set during the American Revolution.

And though the former history professor-turned-politician-turned-political pundit signed copies of the new book, "Valley Forge," set during one of Gen. George Washington's darkest periods in the winter of 1777, the travails of the nation's first president were far down on the list of concerns among those who packed the bookstore.

Gingrich's possible run at being the nation's 45th chief executive was the main topic.

"We'll have an announcement of some kind in March," Gingrich said when asked by an audience member whether he'll make a run for the White House in 2012.

Many in the crowd applauded.

Gingrich, 67, who co-authored the novel with William R. Forstchen, spent the first half of the event discussing the book, which comes out today and centers on Washington's harsh winter at Valley Forge and the many challenges that faced the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

Later, prompted by questions from an audience mostly of supporters, he weighed in on several hot-button issues of recent months, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Islamic center and mosque proposed to be built two blocks from Ground Zero, and of course his potential White House bid.

An attendee in the crowd of about 70 asked about how to stop the building of the mosque.

"I think there are a hundred ways - starting with legal challenges," Gingrich said. "I also think anyone who digs into it will find that they don't have the money. . . . The odds are, it won't happen."

Gingrich also said the country's approaches to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are wrong. He said the United States is most likely to be engaged in both countries for several decades despite the surge in Afghanistan and efforts in Iraq.

He criticized President Barack Obama's explanation to a group of college students in Mumbai about alternate definitions of the word "jihad," and what Gingrich saw as the president's reluctance to connect terrorist attacks around the world.Moments before the event, Sue Miranda, 49, a cashier who recently moved to Pennsylvania from Huntington and was back for the event and to visit family, said she'd read several of Gingrich's books. "I like to hear different perspectives of history," she said. "I hope he talks about what Republicans should do. We need some change."

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