LOS ANGELES — Newt Gingrich reaffirmed his commitment to a troubled pursuit of the GOP presidential nomination, after senior members of his campaign staff resigned en masse. In an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Beverly Hills on Sunday night, he tried to rally his supporters with a message of “we will prevail,” he said.
Last week, his staff confronted the former House speaker and anti-Obama firebrand about whether he was dedicated to the lesser tasks of running for office, given a recent vacation he took only weeks after announcing his candidacy.
“I know full well the rigors of public office,” Gingrich told the receptive crowd. “In fact, I’ve had some recent reminders,” he added, as the audience chuckled at his coy reference to the personnel crisis.
In the speech on Sunday night, Gingrich did not dwell on that political fracas, and warned the audience that President Obama had recently proposed a starting point for peace negotiations that put Israel at an unacceptable risk.
“An Israeli peace with Hamas is impossible,” Gingrich said. “Twenty years of hopes for the peace process cannot change this fundamental reality.” He added that Obama’s starting point for such discussion is dangerous, saying: “Accepting such a proposal would be a suicidal step for Israel.”
“We must reverse the Obama administration’s dangerous policies of incoherence and accommodation,” he said.
Gingrich’s assertive words against the president demonstrate how he could continue to shape his party’s message and build a case to oust Obama. The open question is whether his sharp criticism can lead to success at the polls, given the blow to his organization and, presumably, his fundraising ability.
Last week, Gingrich and his wife returned from a Greek cruise and encountered a staff mutiny over the trip and what it may have said about his commitment to campaigning in a crowded field of GOP candidates. As some of his departing staffers sought new employment among his rivals, Gingrich said he would proceed with his appearance in Los Angeles and also attend a candidate debate on Monday night in New Hampshire.
During the reception before Gingrich’s address, Republican donors mingled with VIP guests, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and media provocateur Andrew Breitbart. As House majority whip, McCarthy suggested that Gingrich had some explaining to do, not necessarily about the campaign’s internal squabbles, but about its future. “He’s gotta touch on where his campaign is going to go,” he said in an interview.
Breitbart, an invited speaker who seemed to relish the enduring spotlight he has earned though his antagonism of Rep. Anthony Weiner, chose the occasion to give television interviews and decry the beleaguered New York Democrat as “a world-class narcissist.” He suggested that he wanted the congressman’s attenuated struggle with Democratic leaders to continue. “I am endorsing Weiner for president,” Breitbart said. “I think he’s fantastic.”
Breitbart said the crowd gathered for the event will be looking for a new leader in whom to entrust their concern for Israel, but inferred that Gingrich probably will not be the nominee.
“I think he would be an impeccable adviser to the next president of the United States, especially on the issue of Israel,” he said.
There was confusion among the crowd about Gingrich’s intentions, though his appearance was encouraging to some. “Well, it looks like he’s continuing,” said Shahin Shabahang, a lawyer visiting from the San Francisco Bay Area. Other voters were already looking past the former House speaker’s candidacy and wondering “who he thinks is the best candidate for this party,” said Anne Hurwitz, a Los Angeles resident.
As he made the rounds among well-wishers at the reception, Gingrich declined to answer all but one media inquiry. Asked how viable his campaign is, he replied: “Go ask the voters.”