Why Newt's Campaign Never Got Off the Ground

Why Newt's Campaign Never Got Off the Ground

By Rich Galen - June 10, 2011

There is a reason that just about every airliner looks like every other airliner. Some are larger, some smaller; some have two engines, some four, but they generally look alike.

There is a reason for that. There is a design solution that fits commercial airliners. They take off, they go where the pilot aims them, they land, and they can carry enough passengers to make money.

Same with political campaigns. Every cycle candidates say, "We're going to run a different type of campaign." They all look pretty much alike because there is an engineering design solution for political campaigns.

Things change. On-line fundraising instead of using the USPS was new. So were digital avionics instead of analog instruments. But those things are updates, not fundamental changes.

The story about Newt Gingrich broke at about 3 pm Eastern yesterday. It was the kind of story that, in places where people make their living doing things like talking into a TV camera (or writing Internet-based columns) it was Stop-the-Music.

More or less every staff member of the Gingrich for President campaign in D.C., in Iowa, in New Hampshire, and in South Carolina as well as the two senior staffers at Gingrich's HQ in Georgia had packed up and moved out.

Reporters typed the phrase en masse thinking it gave their pieces a continental flair.

My cell phone bill is going to be huge this month. Every reporter I have ever met wanted to know what I knew.

"I know what you know. We're all reading the same stuff and we're all talking to each other."

Reporters love to say things beginning with, "I'm hearing ..." which is designed to draw you out by agreeing or disagreeing at which point the good ones will pounce and ask you how you know.

I responded with, "Well, then you already know more than I do," as this is not my first rodeo.

I didn't know what happened, but I had a pretty good idea.

From the very beginning this campaign has been in trouble:

-- that false start in Atlanta back on March 3,

-- through the weak Twitter/Facebook/YouTube announcement in May,

-- to the appearance on Meet the Press for which Gingrich was ill-prepared and got into the public fight with Rep. Paul Ryan over Medicare,

-- then the $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany's story, and

-- ending - literally - with the luxury cruise through the Greek Isles.

On TV yesterday and last night I guessed that while Newt and his wife were in Greece, the staff was fuming over their refusal to allow the people who do campaigns for a living help get this campaign on the right path.

Somewhere in the discussion - maybe high up in the discussion - money would have been mentioned.

I have said before that the lack of chatter from the campaign about how much money Gingrich had raised was telling. If they were raising large amounts every day, the campaign would have been telling reporters about it.

Gingrich has raised enormous amounts of money over the years, but this is a different kind of fundraising. This doesn't pour in at $5,000-$10,000 per bucket (as it did when I ran GOPAC) but dribbles in at $5-$10 per drop.

To raise money from large donors requires start-up money: Halls have to be rented, stages have to be built, food has to be ordered, invitations have to be printed, addressed and mailed.

That money - the $2,500 a pop money - comes from the candidate getting on the phone and hitting his long-time supporters for their large checks and to beg them to opened their Rolodexes and raise money from their friends.

That is very hard to do from an ocean liner in the Aegean Sea.

Information from the former staffers started coming out by early evening. No surprises. The staff was made up of campaign professionals who wanted to run a professional campaign.

Gingrich and his wife wanted to campaign where, when, and how they wanted; a different kind of campaign.
But, they ran afoul of the rule that campaigns look like campaigns look, because there's a design solution that works.

The Gingrich campaign was like an airliner with no wings, no engines, and no landing gear. It was a different kind of airliner.

But, it couldn't get off the ground.

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. He writes at Follow him on Twitter at @richgalen.

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