Newt Gingrich heads west to the Silver State Tuesday night, fueled by a concession speech in Florida during which he detailed — despite suffering a double-digit loss — exactly what he would do on his first day as president. But if Gingrich’s road to the White House goes through Nevada, he may want to beef up his campaign.
The former speaker had virtually no campaign in Nevada until recently, explained campaign coordinator Dan Burdish, who was himself appointed within the past few weeks and is working as an unpaid volunteer. And what he has to work with now is still pretty skeletal.
Burdish had “two volunteers that were representing him and collecting emails and telephone numbers — that’s all they could do,” Burdish explained. In those last few weeks, that has expanded to forty or fifty volunteers making calls from their personal phones, off lists of what they believed were likely caucusgoers.
Phone banks did not open up until the last couple days: One in Reno opened on Monday, and the Las Vegas location was in the process of opening when Burdish spoke to The Daily Caller Tuesday afternoon.
“This was all put together at the last minute,” he explained.
Organizational strength is crucial in caucus states like Nevada, as Gingrich might recall from his poor performance in Iowa. Winning requires getting your supporters registered and to the caucus location. The deadline for voters to register to participate in the caucuses has long passed, and the Gingrich campaign is still working on the basics.
Burdish said his tema had identified some Gingrich supporters, and “we will be calling them to ensure that they show up at the caucus.” They also have the resources to make sure people know what to do and where to go: “a database that shows where everybody’s caucus location is,” and an explanation of “how to do the caucusing.”
Even this, Burdish said, is a “labor of love.” The campaign has no paid staff, with the exception of the full-time Gingrich national campaign staff who have flown in.
“We’re more than happy to do this; it’s just, we’ve been doing it on our own, literally,” Burdish said.
Burdish’s title, in fact, is his own creation, since he was asked to run the campaign but left to his own devices as to what that position would be called.
He downplayed expectations for Saturday, pointing to Romney’s and Paul’s long-standing organizations in the state.
“The Romney campaign has been here for six years; the Ron Paul campaign has been here for four years … Newt was very underfunded,” explained Burdish, saying that he had had to be more cautious in expending resources.
With that said, Burdish noted, “if I’ve asked for stuff I’ve been given stuff.”
By contrast, Romney senior adviser Ryan Erwin used the words “laser-focused” to describe the former Massachusetts governor’s Nevada operation, and said “the best part of the strategy has been the discipline … not allowing the ebb and flow of a national campaign … to get in the way of getting the job done.”
University of Nevada, Reno politics professor Eric Herzik pointed out that Gingrich could benefit from being the anti-Romney, the “current ‘true conservative’ alternative and certainly a more charismatic candidate.” University of Nevada, Las Vegas politics professor David Damore suggested that some of that is coming from tea partiers who cannot quite stomach Romney.
Burdish said he is in fact “getting support from tea party groups,” but he was unable to give specifics.
“We’re not trying to put coalitions together … but the tea party groups that I know of, I go to them and they get me volunteers … and that’s all I can ask for at this point,” he said.