[Video of Gingrich debate highlights at the bottom of this page.]
After stumbling out of the gate in his run for the GOP presidential nomination, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s campaign coffers are rising in direct proportion to his poll numbers.
“The campaign is becoming really fun,” said Gingrich, who announced his candidacy for the White House on May 11, only to have a half-dozen key and senior campaign staffers resign within six weeks.
Not content with the publicity from their walkout, former staffers hurt their former boss with gossip about his spending, and the role of his wife in the campaign.
The former speaker hurt himself with an awkwardly public misunderstanding with Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Minn.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee. Gingrich started it when he criticized Ryan’s tactical decision to propose reforms to Medicare. The ensuing back-and-forth became a distraction and sapped the campaign’s energy.
Now, Gingrich said, the atmosphere is positive and the campaign has traction.
“I can’t make it through the airport without a dozen people pledging their support and clicking a quick photo,” he said.
The former speaker said he is connecting with voters because the American people need a leader to take the country in a new direction.
“The country is in a lot of trouble. I am going to keep doing what I am doing. Talking about big solutions and how we can beat Obama next fall,” he said.
In his political column for financial news site Street.com, Joe Deaux wrote that Gingrich’s debate performances have been key to his campaign’s new life.
“Gingrich proved again that he understands the legislative process more fully than any of the other candidates, and he used his weighty House experience to rise above petty eruptions that characterized the event,” Deaux wrote in his article titled, “Newt Gingrich Upgraded to Buy From Hold.”
Erick Erickson, the leader of the RedState.com blog, said Gingrich was the winner of the Oct. 17 GOP Debate in Las Vegas.
“He gave the most solid answers throughout the night with only one stumble—when he admitted his prior support for an individual mandate,” he said.
Erickson, who hosts a weeknight talk show on Atlanta’s WSB-Radio, said he is not convinced Gingrich had turned the corner, but he is doing much better.
“I think it is too soon to tell, he said. “He is going up in the polling to be sure.”
“To find a path to victory, he is going to have to exploit Herman Cain’s fumbles and translate debate gains into fund-raising,” Erickson said.
R.C. Hammond, the campaign’s press secretary, said when he looks at every indicator, it is clear to him that Gingrich will have the momentum through the fall to be the alternative to the front-runner.
Fund-raising has been strong enough to support an expansion of the playing field, he said. “The campaign has raised more money since the Western Republican debate than it did the entire month of July.”
“Over $175,000 since Tuesday, average contribution of $84, with three out of four donations from new donors. The campaign is currently on pace to raise more in October than it did over the entire FEC [Federal Election Commission] third quarter,” Hammond said.
“The average contribution during the FEC third quarter was $76—and 50% of contributions in the third quarter came from new donors,” he said.
The increased cash flow to the campaign is making it possible for Gingrich to expand the states in play, and hire new key staff, Hammond said.
The strategy is to concentrate on the first three states, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa, and then have people and structure in place to leverage success into more success, he said.
“In New Hampshire, the campaign has hired Andrew Hemingway as its first paid staffer, to work with volunteer Team 10 Leader Michelle McManus, a 912 project organizer from Bow, N.H.,” he said.
“Hemingway was the most immediate chairman of the NH Liberty Caucus, which helped elect 100 new conservative legislators to the New Hampshire State House,” Hammond said.
“In South Carolina, the campaign has deployed its National Coalitions Director Adam Waldeck to organize the state,” he said.
“Adam is working with volunteer Allen Olson,” he said, “who was the founder and most recent chairman of the Columbia Tea Party.”
“The campaign will soon announce its Iowa team and open a Des Moines office,” he said.
Hammond said he is seeing the resurgence in the size and enthusiasm of the crowds.
“Newt has spoken to overflow crowds at town halls in Phoenix on Wednesday and in Dallas today. He will campaign in Iowa over the weekend and on Monday, and New Hampshire the middle of next week, then to South Carolina on the 28th,” he said.
Hammond said people outside the campaign did not understand what happened inside the campaign during its rocky first six weeks.
“When the staffers quit there was a panic for maybe 10 minutes,” he said. “Then, Newt talked to us and we were fine.”
The former speaker told the remaining staff that it would take the whole summer to work through the tough launch, but if they stuck to his plan they would be ready in the fall to challenge the front-runners.
The press secretary, who has been with the campaign from the start, said Gingrich was liberated after the staffers quit. “It was like he no longer had to argue with his own staff about what he wanted to do with his campaign.”