Newt Gingrich is cutting back his campaign schedule, will lay off about a third of his cash-strapped campaign’s full-time staff, and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy, communications director Joe DeSantis told POLITICO.
Michael Krull, a former advance man and a college friend of Callista Gingrich’s who took over the campaign after a staff exodus in June, was replaced last weekend by Vince Haley, who has worked for Gingrich for nine years and currently is deputy campaign manager and policy director.
“We’re focusing exclusively on what it’ll take to win what we’re going to be calling a big-choice convention in August,” DeSantis said in a phone interview Tuesday night.
Gingrich officials declined to specify who else besides Krull would be leaving. “Not getting into it right now besides Krull,” DeSantis said.
But another campaign official said the layoffs would largely affect junior and advance staff, the latter of which was contracted out to Gordon James Public Relations. Gingrich consultant Kellyanne Conway and political director Martin Baker will both retain their roles, according to officials. The advance staff also received word on Tuesday afternoon to submit their final expense reports.
(...) The new Gingrich world order is largely a strategy of necessity: Gingrich places a distant third in delegates, behind Romney and Rick Santorum. His campaign-finance report for February, released last week, showed more debt ($1.55 million) than cash-on-hand ($1.54 million). That situation is unlikely to improve given Gingrich has captured no momentum in the polls.
DeSantis said the former speaker will continue to visit states with primaries, but will have a less intense campaign schedule. DeSantis promised that the campaign will be “more positive and ideas-focused,” eschewing attacks on Republican rivals. The aide said the campaign will be more digital, focusing on low-cost communications tools, including informational videos, social media and the web.
“We think that a big part of how we succeed is getting back to core Gingrich, which is a focus on big ideas and positive solutions — having someone who is intimately aware of Newt’s policy positions and the way things are framed, and has been working with Newt for so long on the policy front. We think that having [Haley] as the campaign manager is very important.”
DeSantis said Krull “has agreed to resign.” DeSantis and press secretary R.C. Hammond will remain. John Fluharty, the campaign’s director of ballot access and delegate operations, will also stay on.
About a dozen staff members “will be transitioning out by the end of the month,” including some at the campaign office in Arlington, and some working out in the states, DeSantis said.
The remaining staff will be waging a campaign aimed at what DeSantis termed a “big choice convention” in Tampa this summer. Both Gingrich — and Rick Santorum — are setting their sights argue that Romney cannot reach the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination, and even if they can’t either, they may be able to prevent him from doing so.
“This big choice convention phase will be focused on two goals. 1. Affecting the national dialogue to show that Gingrich is the most capable of defeating Obama, by leading on issues that put the president on defense – like Newt’s $2.50 Gas Plan; and 2. A parallel communications strategy directly to the delegates.” DeSantis wrote in an email.
(...) “We believe that if Governor Romney is unable to secure 1,144 by the last primaries, he will be unable to do so at the convention where the vast majority of the delegates are conservative,” DeSantis said. “That creates [an] environment at the convention where Gingrich can emerge as the one candidate who can unite social, economic and national security conservatives (a fact which is borne out by polling).”