Newt Gingrich, who exploded on the scene as the truculent face of GOP politics in the late 1990s, vowed on Friday to continue to run aggressively for the Republican presidential nomination even though his campaign organization has imploded.
“I’m prepared to go out and to campaign very intensely, but I want a campaign on ideas and on solutions and I want to do it in a way that brings Americans together into a large movement,” Gingrich told ABC News in a televised interview outside his home in McLean, Va.
Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives whose sharp confrontations with President Bill Clinton marked a tougher brand of Republicanism from 1995 to 1999, has been a presidential hopeful for months. Originally part of the top tier of GOP aspirants, his popularity has been slipping in recent weeks after his formal declaration.
On Thursday, his entire senior team and top staffers in the early decision states abruptly quit, after confronting Gingrich about the degree of his seriousness in running. Gingrich has tried to position himself as somewhat of a conservative theoretician.
“There is a fundamental strategic difference between the traditional consulting community and the kind of campaign I want to run. Now we’ll find out over the next year who’s right,” Gingrich said on Friday.
Gingrich gave no clue about what kind of campaign he does plan to run, but almost anything is bound to be better received than his campaign so far.
After his formal announcement, he attacked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the architect of the GOP’s budget plans, which include sharp changes to entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid and deep spending cuts to try to eliminate the deficit and long-term debt. Gingrich was forced to apologize for referring to the key GOP policy plank as right-wing social engineering -- an especially galling phrase since in the American political lexicon, social engineering is epithet reserved to be hurled at liberals, not fellow conservatives.
Then Gingrich was forced to deal with charges that he maintained a credit card debt of up to $500,000 at Tiffany and Co., the posh jeweler. While there was nothing illegal or improper, it was still uncomfortable for any candidate seeking popular support (particularly from an electorate focused on the lack of jobs and poor economy) to be tied to doing extensive business with such a high-end luxury establishment.
Still, all is not completely lost for Gingrich, whose role in the 2012 cycle seemed destined to be more of a voice than a major player. He still has a bully pulpit, which he is expected to use on Sunday, when he gives a foreign policy speech in Los Angeles on Mideast affairs, and next week in the party presidential debate.
And, some supporters, such as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who serves as Gingrich’s state campaign chairman, are sticking by their man.
“Newt Gingrich is my friend and I support his campaign for the presidency,” Deal said in a statement to theAtlanta Journal-Constitution. “When the going gets rough, I don’t cut and run on my friends. Whether he stays in the race is his decision, not mine, and I will support whatever decision he makes.”
Former Gov. Sonny Perdue announced he was throwing his support to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is seen as one of the beneficiaries of the shrinking of the GOP presidential field.
Of course, politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and there is space in the current GOP field for candidates like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom are said to be eyeing a possible run.