Gingrich Rejects Iowa Straw Poll as a 'Beauty Pageant'

Without Newt Gingrich’s early struggles and the exodus of those he referred to as “paid professionals” in a brief interview with HUMAN EVENTS on Tuesday, there may not be a Rick Perry campaign, which is set to at least informally launch at this weekend’s RedState Conference in Charleston, S.C.

Strategists who had been hired by Gingrich, such as Dave Carney, were from the Perry camp and ended up going back to Perry after Gingrich’s campaign shakeup.

“We had a group of paid professionals who had not worked for me before,” Gingrich said.  “If I were to do it over again, I would not have hired the paid professionals.”

When the consultants left, Gingrich had to reboot his strategy, and said he would finally run the campaign he had always wanted.

Gingrich will participate in a debate sponsored by Fox News and the conservative Washington Examiner on Thursday.  But because he did not purchase a booth at the Ames Straw Poll, he will not be speaking before the event on which his campaign will spend no money even though Gingrich will be on the ballot with other nonparticipant candidates such as Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

“There are several candidates who are spending several millions dollars on what is essentially a beauty contest that produces no delegates,” Gingrich said.  “We’re not going to spend money on straw polls that lead to no delegates.  We’re focused on January in Ames.”

To be viable in Iowa in January, Gingrich will have to present himself as a man who can offer the most compelling solutions and ideas to solve the country’s current economic problems.

Gingrich rattled off what seemed like an idea a second, which included repealing the Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley Acts that he says are discouraging investors.  He called President Obama an “anti-American energy” President.  He called for a modernized Food and Drug Administration that can help create jobs.  He spoke of Executive Orders he would sign on his first day in office and ways to make the legislative process in Congress more open and transparent to gain back the trust of the American people.  He cited his time in Congress, when he believes he was responsible for balancing the budget and helping end welfare programs and begin the modernization of some previously untouchable entitlement programs.

Gingrich said he’s building a “substantive, solutions-oriented” campaign with positive ads and speeches.  He also said he’ll be upbeat at the debates and hinted he would not cut down his competitors.

“My debates will be positive,” Gingrich said.  “Not so much about Obama and maybe not about the news media, but I will be [positive] about the other candidates.”

In the pre-social media days of campaigning, Gingrich probably would have had no chance of reviving his campaign.

But with the proliferation of social media that makes access to information cheaper while proliferating it at a rapid clip, a candidate can gain momentum as fast as he can lose it.

With a lean budget, Gingrich will rely ever more on social media to put himself into the conversation.

For instance, his campaign to repeal the Dodd-Frank bill cost the campaign nothing because it took them three hours to set it up on Facebook.  The same is true for video and telephone conferencing services.

And today, Gingrich rolled out a “Team 10” initiative, which is “about reasserting this basic principle, and creating smaller government by working together and being bigger citizens” and reminding Americans that the country “is exceptional because we believe sovereignty begins with the individual” and “we loan power to the government, not the other way around.”

According to a press release, Tea Party and 912 Project leaders will lead Team 10, and through a Facebook app, they will solicit ideas on how to limit Washington’s overreach and enforce the 10th Amendment.

In addition, according to the release, “through voting, online and in-person events, and talking with each other, the best of these ideas will eventually become a ‘10th Amendment Enforcement Act,’ and “as the Republican nominee, Gingrich would include” it as part of a new Contract with America.

These initiatives that integrate social media with politics and policy put Gingrich ahead of the curve, which is why he scoffed at unsubstantiated rumors that many of his Twitter followers (Gingrich was ahead of the curve in successfully adopting the medium) were artificial.

“Folks who want to criticize me about using technology should come on [Google +] with me and create a hangout,” Gingrich said, insisting that unfounded rumors that a majority of his Twitter followers were artificially generated were “baloney.”

Gingrich also noted that he is proud that he has called for the Republican Party to be a more inclusive to minorities and noted the diversity of his audience at a recent Iowa campaign event.

“We did an event in Des Moines last Thursday night, and we had over 20 Chinese-American students,” Gingrich said, noting such diversity is sometimes lacking in Republican audiences.

Of course, one former aide allegedly claimed that Gingrich was fascinated with the potential impact that Chinese-American caucus-goers could have in Iowa.

With the departure of former campaign hands, Gingrich is aware he’ll have to battle innuendo as much as potential attacks from his opponents on the campaign trail.

Gingrich also brushed off rumors that he was just campaigning to promote his books and videos.

“People worry about politicians not having too many ideas until they find a politicians who has too many ideas.” Gingrich said.  “Having a Republican conservative who actually published this many books and has made this many movies ought to be an exciting thing.”

Gingrich feels confident enough in his ideas that he still sees a viable path to the nomination.

“As the economy gets worse and the world gets more dangerous, people will look up and say, ‘Who could debate Obama successfully next October and who could actually govern effectively if they were elected?” Gingrich said.  “And that will steadily lead to an increase in support.”

As proof, Gingrich cited a recent Johnson County event in Iowa in which, according to him, “Every reporter who was there said the room changed decisively when I was there, and the people walked out saying ‘He’s the guy [to beat Obama].’ ”

The coverage of Gingrich’s event in Johnson County backs up Gingrich’s claim.  Reporters from outlets across the spectrum noted that, among the four presidential candidates who were present at the event, Gingrich received the longest standing ovation and generated the most buzz.

But Gingrich seemed aware that rumors of various sorts—about finances, the role his wife plays in the campaign, and the state of his campaign—will be the greatest impediment to his innovative policy ideas getting the traction that he needs them to get.

“I just need to calmly assume substance will beat gossip,” Gingrich said.