Gingrich Keeps Loyalists Close
As former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) ponders a prospective White House bid for the duration of the summer, a look at his kitchen cabinet of advisers provides an early picture of the key people who would be involved in a campaign, should one materialize.
Gingrich has said he won’t make a decision about joining the 2008 race until at least September, and he has given conflicting signals as to where his thinking stands now. Last week he gave himself 4-to-1 odds against running, a month after he said it would be a “great possibility.”
But if he does decide to jump in, the architect of the 1994 Republican revolution is all but certain to draw from the close band of advisers he has accumulated since his rise to power on Capitol Hill.
Three people most prominently associated with Gingrich, all of whom are expected to play campaign roles if he runs, are: GOP consultant Joe Gaylord, attorney Randy Evans and Dave Ryan, a former Gingrich Hill aide and who recently rejoined the former Speaker’s political fold.
Gaylord was the senior political adviser to Gingrich when he was Speaker and played an instrumental role in the 1994 GOP effort that drove Democrats from power in the House.
He was the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee in the mid-1980s and currently runs a political consulting firm. In Gingrich’s political world, Gaylord remains the center of the orbit.
“Joe is very much still in the mix,” said one Georgia Republican operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The same goes for Evans, an attorney with the Atlanta- and Washington, D.C.-based law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP and close Gingrich confidant.
“He’s not just an attorney, he’s a political animal,” the source said of Evans.
A Georgia resident, Evans served as outside counsel to Gingrich and guided the then-Speaker through an ethics investigation in 1996 and 1997. Evans also represented Gingrich’s successor, then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and his clients include other GOP leaders and Congressmen.
Ryan, meanwhile, represents the younger generation of Republican operatives who came of age in the midst of the 1994 Gingrich-led revolution.
Now 35, he was Gingrich’s campaign manager in the 1996 election cycle and in the 1998 cycle was a special assistant to the Speaker and campaign director, traveling regularly with Gingrich and supervising his political schedule.
After Gingrich left Congress in late 1998, Ryan went to business school and later landed a gig at Microsoft in Seattle.
But earlier this year, Ryan left to become executive director of American Solutions for Winning the Future, the 527 organization Gingrich set up last October.
The Georgia GOP operative said many party insiders saw the change as the strongest indication yet that Gingrich is serious about running.
“Dave would certainly be part of any type of move Newt would make,” the source said.
Another person who has long-held ties to the Gingrich organization is Mike Shields, now chief of staff to Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.). Shields, like Ryan, traveled regularly with Gingrich when he was Speaker.
In April, Ryan received a $5,638 salary from Gingrich’s 527 group.
Gingrich has raised $2.2 million through the 527 since fall, but he is barred from using that money to fund a presidential bid. He can use those funds to pay for support staff, fundraising, travel, direct mail and other things that could aid in laying the groundwork for a run.
Gingrich allies have maintained that the organization is not aimed at building support for a White House run but to promote a national series of ideas workshops Gingrich has planned for the fall.
Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s spokesman who would also likely play a big role in a presidential run, would not discuss the individuals who might be involved in a Gingrich campaign because there is no such entity.
“We’re not running and we’re not thinking about running,” he said. “We won’t think about running until October.”
Among the other expenditures American Solutions for Winning the Future made in April was $2,500 to Nick Ryan LLC in Des Moines. Ryan managed the unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign of then-Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) in 2006.
Also in April, Gingrich’s 527 paid Matt Dabrowski $5,453 as director of strategic polling and Paige Lance $8,532 as finance director.
Linda DiVall of American Viewpoint served as Gingrich’s pollster when he was in Congress. DiVall has previously advised the presidential campaigns of then-Sens. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) and Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and now-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.).
Other members of the Gingrich orbit who would play key roles if he were to launch a 2008 campaign are Nancy Desmond, Steve Hanser and Vince Haley.
Desmond is Gingrich’s former district director and now CEO and president of the Center for Health Transformation, a group founded by Gingrich. She co-authored a book with Gingrich and still plays a large organizational role on his team.
Hanser, a former history teacher, is a Gingrich mentor and has been among his closest intellectual advisers.
Haley formerly worked at the Gingrich Group and now directs policy research for Gingrich at the American Enterprise Institute. He was a senior research analyst at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the 2002 cycle.
Myriad Gingrich-connected former Hill staff have fanned out across K Street, though it remains unclear what, if any, role those associates might play if the former Speaker runs for president.
Among the most prominent former Gingrich aides with K Street credentials are Dan Meyer, now the White House’s chief House lobbyist, Arne Christensen, a top lobbyist with American Express, Ed Kutler of Clark & Weinstock and Jack Howard, president of Wexler & Walker.
Gingrich also remains close to former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), though Weber already has signed onto the 2008 campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R).
Gingrich’s latest pronouncement putting his odds of running at about 25 percent came as former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) more formally waded into the 2008 contest.
While Gingrich is not likely to run as a son of Georgia if he does launch a presidential bid — he’s actually from Pennsylvania — the entrance of Thompson in the race could hinder Gingrich’s ability to woo voters in the South if he runs.
Thompson won the presidential straw poll at the Georgia GOP’s annual convention last month, receiving 188 votes. Gingrich came in second with 77 votes.
The Georgia Republican noted there may not be much air for Gingrich by the fall.
“Fred’s going to have a lot of support in the South,” the operative said. “Newt’s done nothing to tell anybody down here to keep their powder dry.”