“In a normal environment, he wouldn’t have been able to come back to the top of the heap,” said Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican strategist who worked with Bachmann’s campaign this year. “This has been such an unusual year.”
Gingrich has recovered slowly, largely by impressing voters during debates — the very medium that has hurt the fortunes of some of his rivals, notably Perry. After the first few debates, conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh called Gingrich the only “grown-up” in the room — a perception that many rank-and-file Republicans appear to have come to share.
“I’ve watched every single debate,” said Amie Martin, 41, a marketing professional from Nashua who came to Manchester to hear Gingrich give his speech on entitlements. “I’ve been saying all year, ‘Look, you’ve got to listen to Newt. He’s always spot-on.’ The more people listen to Newt, the more people see that he makes sense.”
Other strategies helped Gingrich survive the lean months of his campaign.
Through his now-dissolved think tank, American Solutions, Gingrich was able to build a network of supporters who were active within the tea party. They helped arrange campaign events in Iowa and elsewhere. Gingrich also brought his wife, Callista, on many of his trips — and she was regularly a hit with the crowds.
“We didn’t have any staff until a week ago,” said Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, recalling the lean summer months when the entire staff — and the Gingriches — would stay with Greg Ganske, a former congressman from Des Moines, every time they campaigned in Iowa.
Some of those who resigned in the spring went on to join Perry’s operation. But others rejoined Gingrich this month. Gingrich has bolstered his staff in Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida, and, unlike many contenders, has a notable operation in South Carolina. He is launching Web sites tailored to every state, including “NewtHampshire.com,” which he said signed up 250 volunteers just last week.
“What about yard signs?” Martin, the Gingrich supporter, asked the campaign’s New Hampshire volunteer coordinator Monday.
“Get back to me on Wednesday!” was the reply. “We’ve got 4,000 coming in.”
Still, Gingrich has a lot of ground to make up. After the last filing report in October, his campaign said it was deep in debt, whereas Romney had nearly $15 million in cash on hand.
Hammond, the campaign spokesman, said, “Newt said it would take two and a half months. He said not to pay attention to the coverage because it was going to be awful, and to continue to plow ahead. ‘We need to focus one day at a time. Focus on one day, and do one thing, and we will get going again.’ And he was right.”
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