From the GOP to real elephants: Gingrich visits San Diego Zoo - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

From the GOP to real elephants: Gingrich visits San Diego Zoo

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - After losing four straight contests, some people are suggesting Newt Gingrich drop out of the race, but he says he's not going anywhere.

Gingrich is spending most of the week in California attending fundraisers. On Tuesday, we caught up with him at the San Diego Zoo, where he was taking a little break from the campaign trail. The irony of the Republican presidential candidate feeding peanuts to an elephant wasn't lost on anybody during the surprise visit.

"This is sort of part of my Valentine's Day, I get to come and hang out with elephants for a little while and other animals," he said.

The former House speaker decided a chance to talk to the animals was just what the doctor ordered, designed to take a break from the grueling campaign trail, which has him criss-crossing the country.

A recent CBS News poll shows him in fourth place in a nomination race he describes like being on Disneyland's Space Mountain.

"I was ahead in December, then [Mitt] Romney poured a whole bunch of negative ads in, I fell behind, then I was ahead again in late January. He poured in $20 million in negative ads, now I'm behind. I suspect in another two or three weeks I'll be ahead again. It's literally like riding a rollercoaster," Gingrich said.

And while the run for the White House is definitely on his mind, the 68-year-old thoroughly enjoyed his time getting close-up looks at tigers and polar bears. He also took pictures and spoke briefly with some zoo visitors who were shocked to see him.

"He's just very upfront, he's very blunt. He's not afraid to confront the other candidates," a zoo visitor said.

Gingrich said his favorite part of his 90-minute private zoo tour was a meet-and-greet with Yunza, a 2 1/2-year-old panda whom he also got to feed for a few minutes.

"This is amazing. Fairly sloppy though," he said.

And after watching us record what is called a "preview show tease," Gingrich decided to poke some good-natured fun at us.

"See I prepared to come here and deal with San Diego media because I watched 'Anchorman,' he said.

Gingrich says this was not his first time at the zoo. He called it the best collection of animals in the world.

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