Incidentally, Newt qua Newt is also something of a stand-up comedian. The emcee in Newberry introduces Gingrich with a comment that any of the Republican candidates would be better than the “train wreck” currently in the White House. Gingrich goes off script and runs with it.

“I really appreciate the way that you explained that I was better than a train wreck,” he deadpans. “I’m going to try tonight to rise to that level.”

Later in the Q&A, a voter asks if Gingrich (who will be 69 on Inauguration Day 2013) is healthy enough to serve as president. After noting he is in generally good health, Gingrich acknowledges he could stand to lose a few pounds. “God wanted me to be a bear, not a gazelle,” he says. The audience laps it up.

Gingrich even mildly pokes fun at his own penchant for whittling down every issue to a question of reason and logic. A man named “Bulldog” Burke from Saluda poses an important query in a deep Piedmont drawl: “In light of the recent events, who do you think will win the SEC championship?” The former metro Atlanta congressman says he’s pulling for the University of Georgia.

“This is an act of faith, not an act of rational calculation,” Gingrich jokes.