06/24/2011 11:34 am ET | Updated Aug 24, 2011

Newt Gingrich: Maryland GOP's Guest Of Honor, Not Its Presidential Candidate (VIDEO)

BALTIMORE -- Newt Gingrich was the guest of honor and the keynote speaker at the Maryland Republican Party's annual Red, White and Blue dinner Thursday night, but the GOP presidential candidate wasn't the top pick at the polls for dinner guests.

In interviews, guests at the dinner named a half-dozen of Gingrich's rivals as their favorite candidates, from Mitt Romney to Herman Cain to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has yet to declare that his intention to run.


The 280 or so guests in attendance enjoyed a surf-and-turf menu of filet mignon and Maryland crab cakes, followed by chocolate cake. Gingrich spoke during the entree after holding a VIP reception for approximately 40 party leaders in a side room.

The event capped off two tumultuous weeks for the Gingrich campaign, which saw the departure of a dozen top campaign staffers and, most recently, the decision not to participate in the Ames Straw Poll in August, due to financial constraints. The straw poll is seen as an early test of a candidate's viability, and a strong result can invigorate a struggling campaign.

Despite his troubles, Gingrich was upbeat, telling reporters that he plans to travel extensively in the coming weeks, including 12 trips to Iowa in July. "I'm very happy, I'm focused on an idea- and solution-oriented campaign," he said.