Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race today and endorsed Newt Gingrich, but Dirk Van Dongen, Perry’s top K Street backer, lost no time throwing his support behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, and he predicted many Beltway players will soon do the same.
“I would expect the overwhelming majority of Perry fundraisers in Washington will sign up for Romney, assuming that they’ll sign up with somebody,” said Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.
Van Dongen had taken the lead helping raise money inside the Beltway for Perry and introducing the Texan to Washington, D.C., donors and bundlers. Van Dongen was a major bundler for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) when he was the GOP nominee in 2008 and for President George W. Bush in 2004.
Another K Street heavy hitter who had backed Perry, Kirk Blalock of Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, said he was switching to Romney as well. His colleagues Don Fierce and Kirsten Chadwick are also with Team Romney, he noted.
Some lobbyists who had previously put their resources behind Perry are still holding back their support, saying they want to see the outcome of Saturday’s South Carolina primary and the effect of an upcoming ABC News interview of Gingrich’s ex-wife Marianne, who according to early reports said her then-husband asked for her approval to take a mistress.
Some lobbyists who had backed the Texas governor said his endorsement of the former Speaker may be a hard sell inside the Beltway.
Gingrich has enjoyed support on K Street from an inner circle of former aides, but his tumultuous years as Speaker, which were marked by an ethics scandal and partisan friction, have left some lobbyists wary.
“Many of us got to know him during his time in the House,” one GOP lobbyist said. “And you learn three things about Newt: He’s an absolute idea factory ... but he’s a horrible manager, his interest does not stay pointed and sustained, and he’s his own worst enemy when he’s at the top of his game.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.