Can Gingrich's lean machine in Iowa deliver?
December 13th, 2011
08:39 AM ET
10 years ago

Can Gingrich's lean machine in Iowa deliver?

Urbandale, Iowa (CNN) - Newt Gingrich's numbers in the latest polls may be fat, but his campaign headquarters in Iowa is quite lean.

The Gingrich HQ consists of just a couple rooms located in an office park in suburban Des Moines. Blink and you might miss it.

But that's fine with the Gingrich campaign.

"Newt Gingrich has been a great fan of stronger, faster, leaner, more efficient, more effective," says Katie Koberg, the main campaign spokesperson in the Hawkeye State. "So it's not the number of staff you can hire or the number of offices you can open, it's about who's most effective."

With three weeks to go until the Jan. 3 caucuses, which kick off the presidential primary and caucus calendar, Koberg says there are eight paid campaign employees in Iowa, with 15 to 20 full-time volunteers, plus another 35 to 40 part-time volunteers. All of them work out of the Urbandale location, which is the campaign's only office in the state.

"We're at a great staff level right now. If we need to hire more staff, we will," adds Koberg.

Conventional wisdom dictates that it takes a strong staff to get your supporters to the nearly 2,000 caucus sites across Iowa in the cold and dark of a winter night. Strong organizations in the state helped Bob Dole capture the 1996 GOP caucuses and made former President George W. Bush a winner in Iowa four years later. During the last cycle, Barack Obama's superior get out the vote efforts in Iowa helped him beat rival Hillary Clinton in the Democratic caucuses. But it was a different story on the Republican side. Mitt Romney's superior organization wasn't enough to put him over the top, as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, with a tiny staff in the state, captured the caucuses.

"It's tough. You put a lot of faith into people from the ground up that they are actually going to come out at a very specific time at a very specific place on a very cold night," says Koberg, an Iowa native.

But she says that her best weapon when it comes to motivating Gingrich supporters to head to the caucus sites is her candidate.

"Our best get out the vote effort is our candidate, who delivers a great message. Newt Gingrich makes our lives much easier by being able to deliver a message and by being a likable guy," adds Koberg.

Koberg and another senior Iowa staffer left the campaign in early summer. At the time Gingrich's bid for the White House was on life support. After a number of stumbles and controversies surrounding the candidate, a bunch of top national staffers and advisers jumped ship, and the campaign coffers were in the red. But thanks to strong debate performances in the summer and autumn, and thanks to stumbles from other GOP rivals, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and businessman Herman Cain, who recently suspended his campaign, Gingrich's poll numbers began to skyrocket.

Koberg and the other senior staffer in Iowa rejoined the campaign earlier this fall, and the campaign HQ opened at the end of November.

Koberg says volunteers have arrived from as far away as Texas, with one of them saying "we heard you needed boots on the ground. We're boots and we're on the ground."

The volunteers have helped set up the office, assisted in building the organization and made calls to energize Iowa supporters.

Gingrich has touted that he has the largest presidential campaign organization in South Carolina, the first Southern state to vote, and top campaign aides say they have a strong structure in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary. But the organization in Iowa appears much more modest.

The Gingrich campaign says they brought in $4 million in fundraising nationally from the first of October through mid-November, and the campaign recently went up with their first paid ad in Iowa.

But the big question is whether Gingrich can capitalize on his soaring poll numbers and rising fundraising figures.

Also see:

Gingrich, Huntsman's friendly foreign policy debate

Giuliani: Gingrich may be stronger than Romney

Cheney: Don't underestimate Gingrich

Santorum counting on Iowa

Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. ST

    Gingrich's lead in Iowa is starting to slip away. This is mainly because of poor organisation and little money. As the time left for the caucuses to take place is very short, I can't see Gingrich winning in Iowa.

    December 13, 2011 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  2. Whatever

    It's easy to be lean when the CNN Politics Homepage has your name splattered all over it while the 12 term Congressman Ron Paul can't get anything on any page that doesn't have a headline that reads "Ron Paul to eliminate Student Loans" or something else as misleading.

    December 13, 2011 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  3. Selly

    Ron Paul is actually connecting to ppl, unlike Newt...lets see what happens come Caucus night.

    December 13, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  4. AlaskaPalin

    There is that bit of anarchist and anger especially at big government. Big government seems to be a crook with its grandstanding and sophistry. To reduce it; it will take one who is wily; like minded or a kindred spirit- one who knows it inside out. No nice person can do that. In newt we see the end of the foolishness that
    goes on in washington.

    December 13, 2011 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    Let's hope that Iowa has not doomed the process, by their rather oddball system, which I totally oppose.

    December 13, 2011 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  6. lgny

    This is exactly the debate strategy. The candidates can gain public exposure without spending the money to build a local organization in each state, buy big ad campaigns, ....

    Instead, the news covers each debate with a few days of follow-up stories. It's a very clever marketing strategy that could prove successful - if only they had a better product to sell.

    December 13, 2011 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  7. CoJo

    so why is Gingrich willing to lower the rich taxes to 20%, but he won't reduce the middle class's tax rate? He's playing favorites to the rich AGAIN... if he did it with equal ratios, the middle class tax rate(if my math is right) would be 8.6%

    December 13, 2011 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  8. skalamba

    Newt won't be the nominee he's link to Freddie Mac, imagine he is running for PRESIDENT? He can't be trusted.

    ROMNEY is the man!!!! we will vote for ROMNEY 2012

    December 13, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  9. "I'm not a letch ~ any more".

    Remember Gingeritch he is a K Street lobbyists who preys on people’s desire to have influence over our government. Like all wealthy political lobbyists Gingeritch will say and do anything for profit.

    December 13, 2011 10:52 am at 10:52 am |