Georgia Politics Links Cain, Gingrich, and Even Perry

Friday, 21 Oct 2011 03:36 PM

By Matt Towery

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This is too juicy not to share. It's a little gossipy and involved, but it stars three presidential candidates, so it's topical stuff.

It all goes back to 1990. Johnny Isakson, now a U.S. senator from Georgia, was then running for governor of the Peach State. I was running for lieutenant governor at age 29.

Credit (or blame) Newt Gingrich for my candidacy. He'd been my friend and mentor since my college days. He encouraged me to run as a Republican in what was then an overwhelmingly Democratic state. He thought a young Republican candidate would help recruit young Georgians to the GOP.

It unfolded like this: Johnny paid a visit to Newt, who was then the U.S. House minority whip. Newt's office was like a grand parlor. Officials from the George H.W. Bush White House would gather there, as would an array of other officials.

Back then, Newt didn't care too much for Isakson's politics. He thought Johnny was too moderate on key Republican positions. But that didn't stop Isakson from flying to Washington and asking to meet with Newt to tell him face-to-face that he was running for governor.

Newt is mellower now than he was in those days. His political star was ascending back then, and he knew it. He could be a bit cocky. As for Johnny, he was then as he is now: even-keeled and good-natured. That temperament served him well as he waited for Newt from early morning to after sundown while sitting in a folding chair outside Newt's "parlor."

Newt would pass through, going back and forth from the House floor to his ornate office. Finally, Isakson was able to tell Gingrich he was running for governor. Newt said in essence that he was unenthusiastic.

Isakson's campaign manager that year was a very bright GOP operative named Jay Morgan. Morgan was at least as unenthusiastic about my running for lieutenant governor as Gingrich was about Isakson running for governor.

Johnny ended up losing the election to Zell Miller. I lost to Pierre Howard, who became my business partner after we both left the legislature! (Who says the South isn't incestuous?)

Let's fast-forward to 1992. A new Republican congressional seat was to be created by the Georgia Legislature. It was in my home area, and Newt had already endorsed me for the seat. By then I had hired as my chief campaign consultant none other than Isakson's campaign manager, Jay Morgan.

Meanwhile — and wouldn't you know it? — Lt. Gov. Howard and several other folks thought it would be clever to assign Newt's congressional seat number, District 6, to the new district in which I was to run.

It put me in a pickle. The people in this new district were lukewarm at best about Newt moving his home into the new District 6 so that he could run there. I was crushing him in the polls. After all, I was on my home turf, and I had plenty of name ID from having run for statewide office.

But Newt had helped launch my career, so I agreed to forego running myself, and instead became his campaign chairman "for life." (I had no idea he'd become U.S. House speaker two years later.) I insisted that he make Morgan one of his chief consultants. Little did Jay and I realize how much the Republicans in the district disliked Newt, who barely defeated an unknown opponent.

Now we skip to 2004. Newt had long since resigned as speaker. Then-Rep. Isakson was now running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Georgia against an upstart named Herman Cain. Again, Morgan was one of Isakson's consultants.

Curiously, it was around this time that Newt decided to make an effort to support conservative African-Americans for Congress in Georgia. Subsequently, he declined to give Isakson a strong endorsement in his race against Cain. And many of Newt's closest friends openly backed Cain. (Are you starting to catch my drift?)

Now it's 2012. Gingrich is running for president against, among others, the same Herman Cain whom he has always admired. According to three Insider Advantage polls released this week, the combined support for Gingrich and Cain leaves all other Republican candidates in the dust.

And where is Isakson's Jay Morgan? Supporting Rick Perry, of course.

The moral of all this? That nothing is ever coincidental in politics. Watch this Cain-Gingrich relationship down the road.

And if Rick Perry wants to get back in the game nationally, he needs to hire Jay Morgan. He has the talent to turn around the Good (sinking) Ship Perry.

Matt Towery is author of the book, "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. Following him on Twitter @matttowery.







© Creators Syndicate Inc.

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