Measuring the Grass Roots in Iowa; Gingrich Short on Organization but Long on Ideas
Keene, David A., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: David A. Keene, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Newt Gingrich, who likes to dabble in history and futurism, is betting that caucus and primary politics have changed dramatically. If he's right, Mr. Gingrich could emerge as the winner of the more than 1,600 Iowa precinct caucuses on Jan. 3 and have a real shot at the GOP presidential nomination and White House. If he's wrong, his candidacy will stall in the snows of New Hampshire and he'll find himself among the second-tier candidates who have enjoyed a day in the sun and are just beginning to realize they won't be going to this year's Republican National Convention to be anointed as the party's standard-bearer.
In the past, victory in Iowa has gone to candidates who could relate to and excite Iowa voters while building an organization to deliver committed Republicans to their local caucuses on caucus night. The winners have always realized that this is no easy task because while it's one thing to get Iowans to like them, it's quite another to get those Iowans to drag themselves away from hearth and home on a cold and often snowy January night to find the appropriate caucus, stay through sometimes boring presentations from representatives of the various candidates and declare themselves.
Oh, there are some who go every cycle regardless. They are the primary targets of all presidential wannabes. Others may be so excited about Mr. Gingrich or Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney or Ron Paul that they'll show up no matter the obstacles. The margin of victory in the past, however, has gone to the candidate who could identify and deliver the votes of those who might not have attended without prodding.
The candidate with the best organization doesn't always win, but if the polls are close, the candidate with a strong organization on the ground invariably wins. Mr. Gingrich doesn't have much on the ground, in part because his missteps earlier in the campaign hurt his fundraising and because from the beginning, he has been betting he doesn't need a traditional organization. He expects his message and personality to enable him to debate or talk his way to victory.
That's never happened before, but it is at least possible that in today's world, it might work. A virtual organization tying supporters together via the Internet and its social-media manifestations could take the place of an on-the-ground organization to some extent, and Mr. Gingrich's undeniable skill as a verbal warrior has excited people in Iowa looking for someone who can slug it out in a general-election debate with President Obama. If the world has changed as much as Mr. Gingrich seems to think, he may not need as extensive an organization as past candidates. …