Saturday, March 26, 2011

Politico on how a Gingrich campaign would look

In a mostly even-handed and thorough article, Jeanne Cummings of Politico detailed the strengths, challenges, and strategies of a Gingrich for President campaign.

The campaign's thoughts on the early states:
But if conservative voters are willing to cut him a break on his three marriages, the Gingrich team believes he has a shot at winning or doing well in Iowa.

With that momentum, the former speaker would emphasize his fiscal conservative credentials in New Hampshire. Gingrich believes he’ll have an advantage because he’s the only candidate who can say he balanced the federal budget. The others can only talk about it.

Gingrich’s strategists concede that Romney would be a formidable opponent in New Hampshire, a state the former Massachusetts governor has never stopped courting since his 2008 bid.

In addition, the former speaker will face an influential, behind-the-scenes adversary in New Hampshire: former White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, who served under President George H. W. Bush. Many Bush loyalists blame Gingrich for leading an intra-party revolt over tax increases that contributed to the president’s re-election defeat in 1992.
(The fact that "Bush loyalists" still harbor bad feelings toward Newt nearly twenty years later is telling. Bush sunk his re-election chances by hiking taxes, and to blame Newt and other Republicans for opposing the wrong-headed strategy -- instead of the strategy itself -- is a perfect example of shuffling the blame.)

Cummings continues:
Still, the speaker’s advisers hope he can make a strong showing, if not a win. If all goes according to plan, Gingrich would head to friendlier turf in South Carolina, where he could face a key and – they hope — a crucial showdown with Barbour.
Cummings believes that the campaign's headquarters would be in Virginia -- which I have not seen anywhere else. Everyone else has reported it would be in Georgia -- where the campaign is "planning a major presence," writes Cummings.

Whether Cummings is speculating or has inside information that no one else has is not known.

Regardless, she continues:
So, Gingrich enters the race without the traditional home-state anchor that most presidential candidates use as a platform to launch and define their candidacies.

The speaker’s advisers are betting that geography is less important in the Internet age. They also are focused on coalition politics by assiduously courting tea party activists, as well as evangelicals.

Palin and Huckabee are clearly the tea party favorites, according to polls. But if both of them sit out the race, which seems increasingly likely, Gingrich is positioning himself to take their place.

During the 2010 midterms, he made appearances for tea party candidates – including Sharron Angle in Nevada, an early primary state. He’s become a regular at tea party rallies, including a recent one in South Carolina.

In addition, American Solutions, a Gingrich-founded conservative think-tank, last month organized a letter supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another tea party ally, signed by 86 local and national tea party activists. American Solutions also has been holding regular conversations with more than 300 tea party leaders throughout the country.
I beg to differ that Huckabee is a "tea party favorite," but the point stands: that without the former Arkansas Governor and Sarah Palin, Newt is helped.

The extensive outreach to tea party activists by Newt is something I have written about before.

Cummings writes that Newt's ability to be the only candidate who can say that he has actually balanced the federal budget before -- and not just talk about it -- is key to the courting of the Tea Party.

She then moves onto the issue of raising money, and as her colleagues at Politico did recently, skews the truth when it comes to who gave money to American Solutions. She makes it appear that all the money came from a few millionaires -- when in fact, as I have written before, citing the Washington Post, Newt had 300,000 donors give under $200.

Cummings then, however, cites some advantages that Newt will have over his competitors:
For instance, during his political hiatus, Gingrich signed fund-raising appeals for the Republican Governors Association, National Rifle Association, Republican National Committee, and other organizations. In exchange for his autograph, he received the names and addresses of everyone who sent in a check in response to his appeal. He still has those lists.

Through Facebook, he’s collected hundreds of thousands of followers and his Twitter account has more than a million. His private consulting firm, which manages his book sales, also has stored more than a million names of potential donors.

So, while Gingrich could use his core group of backers to build a big donor base, he also starts the exploratory phase of his candidacy with a small-donor list that stretches into the millions.
Building a massive grassroots operation is the only way to beat President Obama, and Newt has a significant leg up on the other Republican nominees when it comes to names and contact information.

More urgently, Newt, like every other candidate, will not be able to write himself a $50 million check as Mitt Romney could do if needed. He will need to have a wide base of financial support to supplant that.

Of his ability to stay on message, which I believe may be his biggest obstacle to the nomination, and ultimately the White House, Cummings writes:
However, those who have covered Gingrich for a long time know of another, more disciplined side to the speaker. He was an early convert to the notion that repetition is vital to breaking through with voters.

In 1993, when campaigning for House members, the former speaker delivered the same address, multiple times a day, for months, without significant or headline-grabbing variations.

The 67-year-old also has shown no signs of slowing down, flying coast-to-coast in a single day to make appearances only to get up and do it again the next day.
If Newt stays on message -- talking about jobs, energy, reducing the size and scope of government, civil society, and foreign policy -- and can build a large base of support online and on the ground, there is not a candidate who can match him in the GOP. And unless the economy improves against all forecasts, that would be enough to elect him the 45th President of the United States.

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