Gingrich says he feels ‘liberated’ by staff exodus

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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Speaking on “Hannity” Tuesday night, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said he feels “liberated” and rejuvenated by the mass resignation of key campaign staff last week.

Gingrich lost several of his top-level campaign staffers, including spokesman Rick Tyler and all of his Iowa staff, but he’s pressed on since then, saying he has no plans of abandoning his campaign.

“With the exception of only one person, all of my original team is still with me,” Gingrich said. “And in every single state where we lost some people, we’ve actually gained new people who are excited by the idea that we could have a genuinely different grassroots campaign to change Washington.”

Gingrich has eschewed traditional campaign strategy and said he wants to run an “ideas-oriented,” grassroots-style campaign.

“My vision is of a people-oriented grassroots campaign where newt.org becomes the center of new solutions, new ideas, new energy — a campaign that’s inclusive, that brings together everybody in America of every ethnic background who wants to change Washington,” he said. “And I think that that was so different from the normal republican model, that there just wasn’t a fit.”

(As staffers resign, Gingrich has ‘nothing to say’)

The strategy was a source of irreconcilable tension between Gingrich and his former staff. Staffers were reportedly irked by the time Gingrich spent crafting policy papers and promoting he and his wife’s documentaries. His latest project is promoting his new book on American exceptionalism, which was released Monday.

“We had a fundamental difference about strategy,” Gingrich said of his former advisers. “A good example is the fact I have a new book out, which I’m very proud of, ‘A Nation Like No Other.’ It’s about American exceptionalism, it’s about the Declaration of Independence. It’s designed, frankly, to say to the American people, we’re not European socialists. we’re not committed to government being in charge.”

It’s a bold strategy, but James Woodard, a political science professor at Clemson University, said Gingrich’s credentials as a policy-wonk might not compensate for a perceived lack of charisma.

“[Gingrich] is an ideas guy from the beginning,” Woodard said. “He loves to talk about policy, but he seems to be unaware that voters are inspired by character, conviction and belief as much as political machinations. He is not able to capture the imagination of the voters the way a nominee should.”

Gingrich’s appearance at Monday’s GOP debate in New Hampshire was seen by many as a make-or-break moment for his campaign, and while Gingrich didn’t commit any serious gaffes, he didn’t wow anyone either. Polls still place him in the lower half of the GOP field. Woodard said that this, combined with the campaign’s shaky start — the resignations, the revelation that Gingrich and his wife spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at Tiffany & Co. — might be too much for the candidate to overcome.

“A lot of politics is timing, and one senses that Newt Gingrich has missed his moment this year,” Woodard said.