Saturday, June 11, 2011

Political Rookie Mistake?

Most of the press has written off Newt Gingrich's campaign for president now that the old pros of his staff have walked off, and that actually makes me sad. It's not that I wanted the Newt to win, far from it; it's just that I wanted to enjoy what obviously was going to be a non-traditional campaign. I really do hope he doesn't withdraw any time soon, but the pundits tell me he will have to. Here's what three of the political writers at the Washington Post had to say about this week's "implosion":

On one side was an unconventional presidential candidate. He was enthralled with making documentaries to sell his ideas and captivated by the notion that wooing Chinese Americans could be a key to winning Iowa.

On the other side was a team of political operatives shocked by the flamboyance of the candidate’s stumbles, his resistance to their advice and the dire state of his campaign finances. While he was away on a lavish vacation that they had warned him not to take, they drafted a memo raising the possibility of a graceful exit from the race. ...

As the political world is writing him off, the former House speaker continues to insist that he will carry on, that he will even re?invent the whole art and science of campaigning for national office.

“There is a fundamental strategic difference between the traditional consulting community and the kind of campaign I want to run,” Gingrich told reporters camped out Friday at his suburban Virginia house. “We’ll find out over the next year who’s right."

The press and the old school campaign operatives are betting that the Newt won't get very far with his unconventional campaign, primarily because of money, and that too saddens me. Of course, a candidate for president who doesn't have a finance unit in place to raise funds and who doesn't like to work the phones himself for the cash certainly is going to have a problem, especially if said candidate has a penchant for burning through cash in a hurry. Gingrich insisted on private planes to get him home each night rather than commercial flights, and that's expensive, which is not exactly in tune with an image of fiscal conservatism.

Still, there ought to be room in national campaigns for something besides the weak tea and white toast we are always given. Newt has proven that he can get press coverage at the drop of a hat (or a "big idea"), and that's free. It also gives the electorate more than a carefully crafted thirty-second commercial which ultimately tells us nothing of substance.

Apparently no such room exists anymore, at least in the eyes of the pundits and campaign operatives who have made good livings doing it the conventional way. Part of me hopes that on this issue, Newt wins, or at least makes a decent showing. That'll be the best gift he could give the country.



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