Former congressman Bob Walker, a senior adviser to Newt Gingrich, tells National Review Online that the former speaker will focus primarily on Delaware in the run-up to April 24, when five states will host the next round of the GOP presidential primary. Short on cash and racking up debt, Gingrich, Walker says, hopes to score a win in the First State, which is geographically small and fit for a retail-heavy campaign.
“In that string of states, the place where we’ll be the most competitive is Delaware,” Walker says. “We’re going to schedule both Newt and Callista to spend some real time there.” The campaign, he says, sees Delaware, which will award 17 delegates, as an opportunity to get some much-needed momentum as it heads into May on a shoe-string budget. Gingrich will compete in late April’s other primary states — Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut — but he’s not staking his candidacy on them.
“You have the fight between Romney and Santorum in Pennsylvania,” Walker says. “At one point, I thought we could split things three ways there, but I’m not sure that we have the resources to do that. We’ll do some things in Pennsylvania that will enable us to compete and for the speaker to make his case, but we’re not going to make a major effort. In Delaware, you can conduct more of a personal campaign. For us, that fits.”
Walker acknowledges that Gingrich faces many challenges as he attempts to survive until the Tampa convention in August. But on a conference call Monday morning with senior staffers, Walker emphasized that the campaign will continue to fight on, regardless of rampant press speculation about Gingrich potentially dropping out.
Looking ahead to Texas, Walker says that Governor Rick Perry remains a Gingrich ally, even though he reportedly huddled with Santorum last week. “It’s natural for [Santorum] to meet with Rick Perry,” he says, shrugging off the chatter about a potential Perry departure from Gingrich’s camp. “Rick Perry has confirmed on numerous occasions that he is solidly behind Newt as long as Newt stays in the race.”
Walker, for his part, will hit the trail this week and next in Pennsylvania, his home state, to stump on Gingrich’s behalf. On Sunday, Gingrich told Fox News Sunday that Romney is the “likely” nominee, “given the size of his organization [and] given the number of primaries he’s won.” But that comment, Walker says, is not a concession but merely an observation on the state of play. The Gingrich campaign, he says, continues, as ever. “There is still dissatisfaction with Romney,” he says. “Conservatives are unsure whether he would be able to beat President Obama.”
However, should Gingrich fail to win the nomination on the convention floor, Gingrich deserves a primetime speaking slot, Walker says. “I assume that in the case of Santorum and Gingrich, they will be given major speaking roles at the convention,” he says. “I can’t imagine the Romney campaign or the party would seek to keep that from happening.” To block Gingrich from a plum convention role “would be a mistake,” Walker says.
“Newt has told Romney directly that he would vigorously campaign for Romney and against Obama in the fall,” he says, should the primary lead to a Romney nomination. “It would be a mistake not to allow that to be said at the convention. Romney needs to generate excitement with the base and both Santorum and Gingrich are two people who can genuinely excite the Republican base to support the nominee.”