He will focus heavily on upcoming contests in Southern states, where he expects his Georgia roots and conservative rhetoric to play well. And he will step up his attacks on his leading rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, for being too liberal to take on President Obama in the fall.
After a lackluster showing in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, the big question looming over the Gingrich campaign was whether he would withdraw. The Palazzo sessions provided an emphatic “no.”
Gingrich confirmed the strategy in a meeting with reporters in a nearly empty hotel ballroom here Saturday night after the Nevada results showed him losing to Romney by more than 20 percentage points. The results stood in stark contrast to Gingrich’s confidence that he could go on to win.
“A vast majority of Republicans across the country are going to want an alternative to a Massachusetts moderate who has, in his career, been pro-abortion, pro-gun-control, pro-tax-increase and who ran third from the bottom in job creation in the four years he was governor,” Gingrich said. “So I suspect this debate will continue for a long time. Our commitment is to find a series of victories which, by the end of the Texas primary, will leave us at parity with Governor Romney. And by that point forward, we’ll see if we can’t actually win the nomination.”
Obstacles on many levels
The Texas primary is scheduled for April 3, and reasons to be skeptical about the new Gingrich strategy are legion.
Gingrich fell from front-runner to a fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last month at the hands of a blistering ad campaign by Romney and his allies. There’s every reason to believe that those ads will continue, and that they will continue to be effective.
Gingrich has also struggled to raise money. Except in South Carolina, the campaign has failed to build effective field operations to compete and often comes across as disorganized and unprofessional. In Nevada last week, a spat between state and national operatives erupted into public view when miscommunication botched a planned meeting between Gingrich and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R).
Gingrich’s advisers say that those missteps are behind them and that the campaign is entering a more strategic phase, as evidenced by the meeting at the Palazzo. They see in Gingrich’s big win in South Carolina a road map for the future, particularly in Southern states. They say they are more organized, better-funded and getting an earlier start in crucial upcoming states.
“We were outspent by $2 million and we still won by 12 points,” political director Martin Baker said of South Carolina. He said that even with less money than Romney, similar victories are possible. “We just need to spend it smarter and more strategically.”