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Gingrich promises to stay in race after cutting one-third of his staff

By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 13:25 EDT
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Newt Gingrich (AFP)
 
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Gingrich remains defiant and says he is downsizing in order to stay in the race until Republican convention in Tampa in August

Newt Gingrich admitted on Wednesday that his campaign is struggling financially, which forcing him to cut his staff by a third – but vowed he intends to remain in the Republican presidential race to the end.

Gingrich’s team insisted his strategy is to remain in the race until the party convention in Tampa, Florida, at the end of August in the hope of somehow emerging triumphant in the event that Mitt Romney fails to gain a majority of delegates. Gingrich’s campaign team have dubbed this his “big choice” strategy.

Speaking on the Washington all-news radio station WTOP on Wednesday, Gingrich said: “We’re staying in. That’s exactly why we’re downsizing and doing what we need to to be able to stay in. I think you have to respond to reality and we had, you know, cash flow shorter than we’d like it to be, so we’re doing the appropriate things to be able to campaign.”

The former House speaker’s hopes of securing the Republican nomination have been slowly evaporating since his victory in South Carolina in January. He has managed to add just one victory to that, in his home state of Georgia, and in recent weeks has barely registered in the race.

Gingrich came in a humiliating third earlier this month in Louisiana, a state he hoped to win, and failed to secure a single delegate.

His campaign team is so strapped for cash it has taken to charging supporters $50 to have a formal picture taken with him, something that the other candidates usually do for free.

Campaign figures disclosed to the Federal Election Commission showed that although he had raised $2.6m in February, he had spent $2.9m.

The spending cuts are a sign that Gingrich’s hopes of becoming the Republican nominee to face Barack Obama in November have withered away. He may be staying in the race simply to keep his name in public view, helping sales of his many books and bringing in requests for lucrative speaking engagements.

While a third of his staff may sound like a lot, Gingrich has fought his campaign with a relatively small team. The main casualty is Michael Krull, the campaign manager, who is being replaced by his deputy, Vince Haley.

The chances of Gingrich winning the nomination are extremely slim, George Bush’s former White House chief of staff Karl Rove predicted Wednesday. Speaking on Fox News, Rove said: “He [Gingrich] calls it a big choice strategy. I think he has little chance of getting his big choice.”

To get his name on the slate for the nomination at the party convention, a candidate has to secure a plurality of delegates from five states. Only frontrunner Mitt Romney and his closest challenger, Rick Santorum, have achieved that so far. With only two victories under his belt and little hope of winning any more, Gingrich remains unlikely to make in onto the slate. The same is true of the other remaining candidate, Ron Paul, who has yet to record a victory.

Rove said it was hard to imagine that either Romney nor Santorum would fail to secure in the first ballot the 1,144 majority of delegates at the convention. In order for Gingrich’s strategy to work, lots of the delegates would have to withhold their votes in the first ballot. It just does not work that way, Rove said.

As well as reducing staff, Gingrich is also reducing his campaign appearances. He had already adopted a more relaxed approach to the campaign than either Romney or Santorum.

Gingrich’s campaign has been sustained financially largely by the Las Vegas hotelier and casino owner Sheldon Adelson, whose family has donated $16.4m of the $18.8m taken in by Gingrich’s Super Pac, Winning Our Future. Returns to the Federal Election Commission show the last recorded donation from the Adelson family was in mid-Febuary.

Super Pacs are restricted to paying mainly for ads, the biggest campaign cost. Private jets, staff and other costs have to be met from the candidate’s own campaign funds.

Gingrich’s press spokesman, RC Hammond, responding to press inquiries about charging for photographs, replied in an email: “We are trying out a new tactic and asking our supporters at our rallies for a nominal donation. And guess what? It’s working.”

Gingrich’s team said they did not charge people to take pictures with the candidate using their own cameras, only for more formal photographs.

In the WTOP interview, Gingrich rejected calls to quit the race. “None of you guys would call a football team or a basketball team and say ‘Gee, why don’t you drop you?’ You’d say: ‘OK, there’s a season, let’s play the season out.’

“Until Mitt Romney has 1,144 locked down solidly, I owe it to the people that have helped me for the last year to represent their views and their values.”

He denied he was staying in the race to take revenge on Romney, who squashed Gingrich with a fierce and expensive ad blitz in Florida.

“No, it has nothing to do with that. Why do you guys try to reduce leading America to the smallest and pettiest and most personal questions? It’s about representing a set of ideas and a set of values that are really important,” Gingrich said.

A CNN/ORC poll, taken over the weekend and published on Tuesday, showed six out of 10 Republican would like to see Gingrich drop out.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012


[Image via AFP]

 
 
 
 
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