- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Embattled 2012 GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that criticisms leveled by former staffers amounted to a “hit job,” and he vowed to press on with a new, leaner campaign focused on social media.

“The idea that I’m just going to let a bunch of paid outside consultants do a hit job and I’m going to fold up my tent and go home? Anyone who has ever watched my career knows that is just a silly idea,” Mr. Gingrich told The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News” radio program.

The Georgia Republican said his campaign would be better off without the senior staffers who resigned en masse last week and reiterated that he has no intention of dropping out.
“Of course I’m staying in. John McCain ran out of money in July 2007 and stayed in and became the candidate,” he said.

Some of the departing staffers complained that Mr. Gingrich wasn’t doing enough personally to ramp up fundraising efforts and ignored advice against taking what the staff considered was an ill-timed Mediterranean vacation with his wife.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gingrich acknowledged that the exodus had dinged the campaign.

“The consultants spent a tremendous amount of money and left, so we’re going to have to spend some time recovering from their spending,” the former House speaker said.

“We’ve raised more money in the last five days than we’d raised in the last three weeks. People feel liberated, now that the consulting class has left, and we can go back to being a campaign of ideas and a campaign of positive approaches.”

Mr. Gingrich said he had a fundamentally different vision of his campaign than that of the departed “consultants,” including campaign manager Rob Johnson and campaign spokesman Rick Tyler, who has worked for Mr. Gingrich for more than a decade.

“We live in a country where you can have an amazingly effective grass-roots campaign for about 1 percent of what the consultants would spend,” Mr. Gingrich said. “It’s a very different model, and it’s a model that relies on an endless willingness to talk with the American people.”
“Facebook is free,” he said.

Mr. Gingrich dismissed as a “smear” an ABC News report Wednesday questioning the ethics of payments from “Renewing American Leadership,” a charity founded by the former speaker, to for-profit businesses he also runs.

ABC reported the charity paid $220,000 to Gingrich Communications for books and DVDs promoting the Georgia Republican.

“It’s just a falsehood. Patently false. Period,” Mr. Gingrich said without elaborating.

Mr. Gingrich’s 2012 presidential run has been marked by controversy and missteps, including his sharp criticism in May of the Medicare overhaul proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, who is House Budget Committee chairman.

Those comments overshadowed the candidate’s official campaign kickoff announcement and immediately put Mr. Gingrich at odds with conservatives in Washington and across the country who have lined up behind the Ryan plan.

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday shows Mr. Gingrich losing considerable ground with Republican voters, with his “unfavorable” rating among likely Republican voters jumping from 13 percent in April to 34 percent currently.

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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