Newt Gingrich’s Headquarters May Be Empty, But Campaign Says They Are Going Strong

Dec 8, 2011 11:55pm
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Richard Shiro/AP Photo

URBANDALE, Iowa—Newt Gingrich is surging in the polls, but it’s hard to tell if you drop by his headquarters in this suburb of Des Moines. No phone banking or teams of volunteers making signs, instead on an afternoon trip here ABC News found an empty office with only six staffers and two volunteers working hard on the Iowa frontrunner’s campaign.

Katie Koberg, Gingrich’s Iowa communications director, says it’s not what it seems and both staff and volunteers are “out meeting with people in their hometowns and coffee shops.”

“Campaigning is not just about being in the bricks and mortar and making calls from phone banks,” Koberg said.  “It’s actually going out, meeting people in their hometowns…at their kitchen table so we have staff out today that’s out and about meeting voters.”

There were Newt 2012 signs on the wall and boxes of campaign literature being delivered, which will be distributed around the state.

Koberg said there will be phone banking done at their headquarters and the campaign is going out and recruiting volunteers.

“We are absolutely relying on volunteer support and we’re getting there,” Koberg said. “We are getting there by going out there and meeting them first.”

Koberg said despite the candidate’s surge they aren’t scrambling to build the organization and there was a distinct lack of panic at the headquarters.

“It’s just about keeping up with the pace.” Koberg said. “If there was a campaign across the state that was not busy at this time, I don’t know what campaign that would be.”

“He is lining up supporters from each county, each precinct, and a lot of that is an important part of the process, but what Newt Gingrich has worked on for years is finding stronger, faster, more efficient ways to do business, more efficient ways to provide solutions and so we are using a lot of the same principals in this new campaign,” Koberg said.

On Thursday, they signed up Charlie Gruschow, a tea party leader in the state who formerly worked for Herman Cain.

He was one of the staffers working at the headquarters Thursday and he’ll spend the next four weeks trying to recruit former Cain supporters and tea party members over to Gingrich’s camp.

“Newt is a tea party guy, although maybe the tea party hasn’t supported him in the past, he is for limited government,” Gruschow said noting that around the Hawkeye state he is known as “Tea Party Charlie.”

The volunteers at the office Thursday weren’t from any of the GOP strongholds in the state or even people that can caucus for Gingrich.

Sondra Ziegler drove 16 hours from Lubbock, Texas with her three children to help out the campaign. Her mother drove from Lexington, Kentucky to meet her there.

“We heard they are behind on their ground game here. I had been reading that their fundraising was not what the other candidates were early on. I know that’s not recently, but there is going to be a lag so if they need boots on the ground, we are going to be boots on the ground,” Ziegler said.

She home schools her kids so they have the freedom to do their homework from the Gingrich campaign office. Her 4-year-old, Sam was playing “reporter” sitting at a desk and interviewing his family earlier in the day.

“So far we’ve got to call volunteers, people who have signed up to support Newt. We’ve been calling those folks and letting them know what we have to do, ask for their help. We’ve also done some data entry, making coffee whatever they asks us,” Ziegler said.

She’s so devoted that she’s paying her own way for the two weeks she’ll be in Iowa and she hopes to return after Christmas.

Ziegler said she set money aside with her husband for “charitable purposes,” and they see helping out the Gingrich campaign as just that.

“He may not be the most likeable candidate in some ways,” Ziegler said. “I’ve seen that in polling in terms of sheer warm and fuzzies, but I’m in love with Newt Gingrich’s brain.

Ziegler is an evangelical Christian and describes herself as “very conservative politically,”  but she believes the former Speaker of the U.S. House has “repented” for his past, which includes three marriages and marital infidelity.

“I believe he has made peace with that part of his life and asked for forgiveness from God. What more can I ask of him?,” Ziegler asked. “I believe he is happily married and I believe he’s the right man for the job.”

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