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Former Aide Reflects on Gingrich's Fall and Rise

Former Aide Reflects on Gingrich's Fall and Rise

By Scott Conroy - December 7, 2011


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- On May 18, Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign appeared to be teetering on the edge of a cliff, with just one more nudge required before it would plummet into the abyss of irrelevance.

Three days earlier, Gingrich had appeared to make a fatal mistake during an appearance on "Meet the Press" when he denigrated Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare voucher plan as "right-wing social engineering."

The conservative backlash was as relentless as it was instantaneous, and much of the national media began asking aloud whether the comment would snuff the final flickers of life in Gingrich’s nascent campaign, which had already seen one public relations disaster after another.

Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s spokesman of a dozen years, woke up early that morning in a foul mood and proceeded to drink too many cups of coffee, as he recalls.

“We were in Iowa all that week, and we were going to event after event after event, and hundreds of people were showing up,” Tyler said in an interview here on Tuesday night. “And what they were telling us back in Washington was not believable because we were having all these people show up.”

Tyler glanced at his email inbox and saw a request from The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone for reaction to the latest misfortune that had befallen the campaign.

Nine times out of 10, a campaign aide in Tyler’s position would have either ignored the question entirely or responded with some innocuous, easily forgettable response about how everything was perfectly fine.

But Tyler decided to take a different route.

“The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding,” he responded in a seven-sentence, 138-word statement-de-force, which veered from a nebulous takedown of the “cowardly,” who had “sensed weakness,” to an indictment of a media machine that had, in his words, been “left exposed by their bylines and handles.”

“But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces,” Tyler concluded.

Tyler’s confidence in Gingrich’s redemption did not last long.

Less than a month later, he joined the rest of the candidate’s senior staff and high-paid consultants in a mass resignation that added insult to injury for a campaign that was regressing by the day.

Now Gingrich is the front-runner for the Republican nomination, while Tyler is the spokesman for The Response -- a group whose call for a “revolution of righteousness in this country” brought it to Iowa for a prayer event Tuesday designed in part to refocus evangelical Republicans ahead of next month’s caucuses.

In the months since Tyler left the campaign, Gingrich has surged to the top of the polls -- in no small part due to his anti-media diatribes that have helped win over conservative audiences on national TV.

Tyler makes no attempt to downplay his satisfaction that his own over-the-top prediction about Gingrich’s political prospects has come to fruition, at least for the time being.

“I just started writing it, and it just flowed out,” he recalled. “Honestly, I just thought it was a really elegant way of just saying, ‘F--- you.’ ”

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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