Gingrich Campaign Bucks Current Political Wisdom

Monday, 05 Dec 2011 02:34 PM

By Margaret Menge

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Newt Gingrich will have rewritten the book on how to run a presidential campaign if he becomes the Republican nominee for president in 2012.

The former Speaker of the House is said to be, for all practical purposes, his own campaign manager, with a “paper-thin” organization even in Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register. And he’s way behind in fundraising.

The way he entered the race, and pulled out ahead of the other candidates, is a good one for the history books. Gingrich announced he was running in May. In June, most of his top aides resigned en masse, citing the candidate’s “lack of focus,” unwillingness to raise money, and his decision to take a two-week cruise through the Greek isles with wife Callista. The liberal British newspaper The Guardian referred to the Gingrich campaign as “over before it ever began.”

To this, Gingrich can now say: “Ha!”

With less than a month before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, Gingrich is leading in national polls. Last week’s Rasmussen poll had him 21 percentage points ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. And in Iowa, he’s in first with 25 percent of likely caucus-goers saying they support him. Republican Rep. Ron Paul is second with 18 percent, and Romney has 16 percent.

Campaign professionals clearly are worried about what a Gingrich win would mean, given the candidate’s self-directed campaign. One longtime Republican campaign pro, Mike Murphy, questioned Gingrich's ability to attract supporters to the Iowa caucuses, telling the Des Moines Register that  Gingrich has no get-out-the-vote operation in the Hawkeye State. But maybe his supporters will find their own way there to vote for a candidate who seems about to sock it to the conventional wisdom.

What’s most remarkable about this campaign:

• Gingrich opened an office in Iowa on just Nov. 30 and as of today, had only six staffers in the state, according to ABC News.
• Presidential candidates usually build a network of supporters in Iowa, naming a campaign chair in every county and every precinct. Gingrich never did that. And his communications director in Iowa says people are now calling the office saying: “I want to be your precinct chair. I want to be your county chair. I want to be the one that speaks at your event.” 
• As of Sept. 30, the end of the last reporting period, Gingrich’s campaign was more than $1 million in debt, and the candidate had raised only $808,000. Mitt Romney, by comparison, had raised $32 million by the same date.
• As of Sept. 30, Gingrich had raised less than $2,000 in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary, while Romney had raised $218,291 by the same date. Gingrich opened an office there just a month ago.
• Gingrich told USA Today last month that, despite the surge in support for his candidacy,, he had no plans to hire more consultants, saying they would only “slow him down.”

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