The Wall Street Journal today features an extensive profile on Newt Gingrich’s vast network of political organizations, including American Solutions, Renewing American Leadership (ReAL), and Gingrich Productions. The paper reports that Gingrich’s “network has amassed more than 1.7 million voter and donor contacts and raised $32 million between 2009 and 2010—more than all his potential 2012 rivals combined.” Gingrich also helped steer $150,000 to American Family Association Action to help defeat three Iowa State Supreme Court justices that ruled in favor of marriage equality. Along with ReAL, which is led by anti-gay activist Jim Garlow, and his support for the AFA, Gingrich has made overtures to other Religious Right groups and leaders including John Hagee, Bryan Fischer, Janet Porter, Liberty University, Liberty Counsel, The Family Leader and the Minnesota Family Council.
But will Gingrich’s financial influence, religious documentaries and appeals to prominent Religious Right figures translate to real support from activists who might be wary of backing a thrice-married adulterer? Fischer remains a skeptic, but Iowa’s Bob Vander Plaats, who coordinated the anti-judge campaign, is still grateful for Gingrich’s significant monetary aid:
Mr. Gingrich hasn’t run a truly competitive campaign in 21 years. He is given to public gaffes, most recently criticizing President Barack Obama for failing to back the rebels fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi, only to reverse himself after Mr. Obama ordered U.S. planes into Libya. He resigned from Congress in 1998 under an ethics cloud, after his party suffered a historic midterm loss. It was later revealed that he was having an affair with a congressional aide.
Even groups that have allied with him, such as the conservative American Family Association, aren’t poised to back him, citing his two messy divorces and three marriages. “He is brilliant, and has much to offer. But he isn’t what we need in the Oval Office,” said the AFA’s director of issue analysis, Bryan Fischer.
Wearing an array of organizational hats, he has met repeatedly with pastors, trained local candidates, consulted with doctors on his proposed health-care innovations and met with local refiners to tout ethanol. After raising money through one of his groups, Mr. Gingrich funneled $150,000 in seed money to a successful campaign last fall to oust three Iowa Supreme Court judges who supported gay marriage.
“Newt’s role was quiet and very low key, but it was pivotal,” said Bob Vander Plaats, a well-known Iowa conservative who led the anti-judges campaign.
The heavy emphasis on religion is part of his long push to atone for his multiple divorces, according to people who know him. “He was very direct about this,” said Rev. Brad Sherman, a prominent Iowa evangelical leader, recounting a session Mr. Gingrich had last year with a small group of Iowa religious leaders. “He said he had deep regrets, and asked our forgiveness.”