Newt Gingrich has taken the Republican primary campaign by storm, but with weeks until Iowans caucus, his biggest challenge, according to GOP insiders, is organization. The former speaker, operatives say, may be leading in the polls, but unless he aggressively escalates his campaign, Mitt Romney may have an edge on the ground, where Gingrich is scrambling to expand his lean machine.
“Newt’s situation is like having the fastest car and best driver in a NASCAR race, but no crew and not enough gas to finish the race,” says Ed Rollins, who has managed campaigns for Ronald Reagan, Mike Huckabee, and Michele Bachmann. “He has to get a crew and raise money to finish the race. . . . It’s a long season and one race doesn’t win you the championship.”
Gingrich advisers, however, tell National Review Online that supporters should not worry, or accept the Beltway’s conventional wisdom about field operations. In early primary states, they say, the campaign is hiring staff and coordinating volunteers. As the clock ticks, mirroring Romney’s efforts is not their aim. Instead, they are looking to build a flexible infrastructure for their candidate, focusing on tea-party coalitions, town halls, and social networking.
“Keep it simple, keep it loose, let Newt be Newt,” is how one Gingrich confidant puts it, describing the campaign’s internal thinking. Indeed, Gingrich’s return to the top of the polls, his aides say, is related in part to his ability to run a positive, solutions-oriented campaign, with a core group of dedicated organizers hustling behind the scenes, not a coterie of paid politicos.