Thursday, June 16, 2011

Great article on Newt's campaign by National Review

Robert Costa of National Review interviewed Newt's communications director, Joe DeSantis, about all the recent events. The entire thing is worth reading, and I recommend you do, but I will pick some of the best parts:

On Thursday morning, June 9, former House speaker Newt Gingrich was informed that more than a dozen of his senior political advisers had resigned. All of them, except for longtime spokesman Rick Tyler, were recent additions to his team, hired guns for his nascent presidential campaign.

Knowing that things could quickly spiral out of control, Gingrich called an emergency meeting at his personal office, a few floors above K Street in downtown Washington. Along with his wife, Callista, Gingrich assembled his remaining loyalists for an important, closed-door discussion about how he would handle the news, and whether he would stay in the race.

“They were calm,” recalls Joe DeSantis, a longtime Gingrich adviser, in an interview with National Review Online. “Newt said that he was not going to get pushed out of this race. He and Callista both said that they felt compelled as citizens to keep fighting, to keep running for president, regardless of the news.

“Immediately, we all felt boosted, we got a wave of energy,” DeSantis says. “For weeks, with the old staff, we all wondered why we weren’t busy, why things were moving so slow. Once we saw that Gingrich was reinvigorated, we felt the same way. Newt World felt like it was kicking back into gear, back into the way it has operated for years. We worked till 9 p.m. that evening, looking at how to reframe the campaign in the days ahead.”

But things turned sour within hours. The advisers not only quit, they criticized Gingrich in numerous stories about the exodus, and some blamed their departure on Callista. This sent Team Gingrich into a fury, and remains an open wound within the inner circle.


“Those who left were more mechanical; they did not fit with the constant brainstorming culture within Gingrich’s inner circle,” explains DeSantis, who now serves as communications director for the presidential campaign. “It was more of an operational clash. There is an old saying in Newt World: Either you stay for two months, or you fit in and stay for five years or more. It is a different kind of pace here: Newt works 80 to 90 hours per week. You have to roll with it.”

Others have left Newt Gingrich’s camp before, DeSantis observes. It is not always an easy place to work, since the boss is an unconventional political figure, who operates more as a magnet for ideas than as the chief executive of a political machine.


[DeSantis]: "We had press events scheduled at the office, but our former point man there (Scott Rials) nixed them. When we went down to the office this past week, we heard about how badly things were being run. Volunteers were not getting calls back, endorsements were not being lined up the way they could have. Totally inexcusable and unprofessional."


DeSantis is less critical when it comes to his former colleague Rick Tyler, who was part of Gingrich’s top team for many years. “I think it was more of a burnout thing with Rick,” he surmises. “We all still respect and like Rick. We have been in contact with him since. He was part of Newt World, whereas the others were outsider advisers who were only here for a bit. It’s a bit different with him.”

Looking ahead, DeSantis emphasizes that Gingrich is in the race to win it, that he never considered dropping out. “Newt is reasonable about things going forward,” he says. “He sees a path to the nomination, but he knows that it will not be easy. He will fight for it. But he is not a masochist. He will not stay in if he sees that there is no way for him to win.”

To help out Gingrich, DeSantis says that the entire campaign team has been reshuffled, with longtime aides playing new roles: Kathy Lubbers, Gingrich’s daughter, is a senior adviser; Michael Krull is the campaign’s political director; R. C. Hammond is the press secretary; Jody Thomas runs fundraising; Karen Olson advises Callista; Brady Cassis is the lead researcher; Bess Kelly is the scheduler.

Perhaps the most important shift, DeSantis says, is Gingrich’s decision to make Vince Haley, his coauthor on books and policy proposals, the campaign’s policy director.

“Making Vince Haley the policy director is important,” he says. “The previous advisers did not organize the team with a policy director, so we had all of these communications and ideas floating out there without organization. Now we are going to keep the campaign ideas- and solutions-oriented, with policy organization and presentation our number-one goal.”
"Iowa is where we are focused," he says. "Other early states are important, but this is where we need to build a powerful movement. We think we can still be competitive there. It is where face-to-face communication can really help you win. Newt has drawn huge crowds there already. He’ll be back in July, if not sooner, building on that early buzz....this will be a different kind of campaign moving forward, the kind of campaign that Gingrich envisioned from the beginning.


It will be based around ideas and solutions, individual outreach, and built around Newt’s strengths, from policy speeches to engagement with voters. It will delve into policy areas that other campaigns won’t touch. It will be an open, grassroots-fueled effort — lots of media, trips to early states, speeches, and talk with supporters on Facebook and Twitter."
More DeSantis:
"Newt is also going to look for more long-form venues, whether it is on television with a reporter or during a policy speech at a college or GOP club, to make his ideas known. Later this month (at the Atlanta Press Club on June 22) he will speak on housing in Georgia, for example, to talk about repealing Dodd-Frank and about his ideas on the Federal Reserve....He will directly talk with thousands of primary voters, not interact with them via press releases and stiff appearances."

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