This post has been updated.
LOS ANGELES -- During a three-day fundraising swing through California, Newt Gingrich has laid a support foundation in a state that could become important in a protracted nominating contest, campaign officials said Thursday.
"We're pretty pleased with this," said Mike Schroeder, Gingrich's California political director and a former chairman of California's Republican Party. "The thing of it is, this campaign has been up and down. We crested out of South Carolina and raised a lot of small-dollar
donations. But then Santorum came in, and now we've got a headwind."
During his three-day swing through the state this week, Gingrich attended at least eight fundraising events in Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno and the Bay Area. He also hosted a telephone town hall that attracted more than 17,000 listeners with just 90 minutes notice, Schroeder said.
The former House speaker held limited public events on a trip that was focused heavily on raising money; he spoke to a Latino group in Pasadena on Monday, a group of Korean journalists in Los Angeles on Thursday, and was scheduled to discuss foreign policy with a specific focus on Iran in an address to a Jewish group over lunch later in the day.
Schroeder said California is more important this year than many Republicans realize. Although the state’s primary isn’t until June, a nomination battle that remains unpredictable could put it in play in a year when its delegates, for the first time, will be awarded by congressional district rather than based on overall state results .
"We have 53 congressional districts," Schroeder said. “You get three delegates from each district. If you get a couple, you can win as many as you get in New Hampshire.”
He added that some districts in heavily Democratic parts of the state such as San Francisco have tiny Republican populations, and they are often heavy with Asian-Americans, Hispanics and African Americans. Gingrich has focused his time in California reaching out to minority groups.
Gingrich said he expects some of the money he raised in California to be spent on TV ads soon, possibly in Michigan, which holds its primary on Feb. 28. He said he intends to compete in Michigan, which is a change of course for a campaign that indicated just a few days ago that it had no staff on the ground there, and that defeating Mitt Romney in Michigan was the key goal, even if Rick Santorum ends up on top in the contest.
On Thursday, Gingrich said recent polls indicate he can exceed 15 percent of the vote in Michigan, which is the threshold for earning delegates there.
"Part of what’s going to happen is that Romney is going to attack Santorum," Gingrich said. "That will inevitably take some votes away from Santorum, but they won't go to Romney. So I will become the beneficiary of what Santorum used to be the beneficiary of when Romney was attacking me."
He continued: "And Romney is caught now in a three-way fight. You've got Ron Paul in Maine, me in the South and Santorum in the midwestern states. It will be interesting to watch and see how long he can be relentlessly negative without it costing him."