Gingrich bets on unconventional primary strategy

By Steve Peoples

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 2 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

The former Massachusetts governor has been building a presidential organization for the better part of six years.

He plans to show it off this weekend, hosting a New Hampshire rally dubbed, "Earn it with Mitt," featuring 500 volunteers who plan to knock on 5,000 doors, make 12,000 phone calls and distribute 5,000 yard signs to voters across the state.

Romney, who typically ignores his Republican rivals in favor of targeting President Barack Obama, sharpened his criticism of Gingrich this week.

"I must admit that Newt has had a very extensive, long record of working in Washington with various governmental and non-governmental agencies, and I just don't think that's the background that's ideally suited, one, to replace Barack Obama, and number two, to lead the country," Romney said on Fox News Channel.

He also hinted at his own organizational superiority.

"Let me tell you, over the last year, they've been a lot of people that have been real high in the polls that are not high in the polls anymore," Romney said. "So you know there's this funny thing in America, it's called the election, and to win the election, you've got to earn it."

Despite being behind, there are signs that Gingrich's organization is growing.

He has five paid staff in Iowa, still fewer than most of his rivals, and, Hemmingway says, 11 paid staff in New Hampshire, roughly the same as Romney. In South Carolina, Gingrich has nine — far more than any other candidate and an indication of the priority he's putting on that state.

"We always thought that we'd be competitive in Iowa, competitive in New Hampshire, with the chance of winning South Carolina," said longtime Gingrich adviser and former Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Walker. "All the grunt work necessary to make sure you can compete for real takes organization. And that's the organization we're in the process of putting in place."

Walker also says Gingrich's use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter has allowed him to maintain direct contact with a huge network of supporters at very little cost.

That's a good thing, particularly because Gingrich has struggled to raise money for much of the year. And there's little sign he can afford to begin running television advertising, like most of his rivals.

Although his team says fundraising has improved in recent weeks, Gingrich trailed during the most recent July-through-September fundraising quarter. He raised roughly $807,000 in contributions during that period, while Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry brought in more than $14 million apiece.

At the same time, Gingrich was by far the most in debt.

He owed more than $1.1 million for racking up consultant fees, direct mail services and office supplies, federal election reports show. Those expenses included more than $5,000 for a "Hispanic outreach consultant" and $724 for "social media consultation."

Former staffer Rick Tyler was among those who quit back in June citing doubt that Gingrich was committed to running a serious campaign.

"The lessons learned were most likely learned by his advisers who left that Newt might actually know what he's doing. I include myself," Tyler said. "He asks lots of people what they think, but ultimately he's running the show; he's running the strategy."

Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Iowa and Jack Gillum in Washington contributed to this

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere