Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will open a website by Monday in an effort to round up the $30 million in pledges that he says would be his ticket to entering the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
A longtime adviser, J. Randolph Evans of McKenna Long & Aldridge, will hold a press briefing at 3:30 p.m. Monday in Atlanta to describe plans for what Gingrich aides are calling a “feasibility assessment.”
Aides say Gingrich will announce his intentions by Oct. 21, ahead of a Michigan filing deadline.
During a recent breakfast with a Politico reporter and other journalists, Gingrich made it clear he has given a great deal of thought to how he would run, starting with a national television ad that would be heavy on his policy ideas.
That might be followed with DVDs of his agenda to households in early-voting states.
Gingrich vowed that he would not participate in group debates like those that now sprinkle the campaign calendar.
“I’m not a penguin,” he said, referring to the field of candidates at the debates as “a row of penguins.” Instead, he said, he wants to hold one-on-one, 90-minute “dialogues” on such topics as fixing specific inner cities.
“If I did run, I wouldn’t do any dog and pony shows,” he said. “I’d debate anybody who wanted to for 90 minutes — one-on-one, for 90 minutes, in either party.”
No exploratory or testing-the-waters committee will be immediately formed, so the Gingrich team cannot collect cash, only pledges.
And Gingrich said he will not take an active role in the effort, although he is scheduled to appear on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
“I’m not doing anything,” he said at the breakfast. “I’ve told Randy Evans he will have my proxy … to do what he wants to do, and then report back to me.
"I’m not getting on the phone and calling people. He’s going to report back to me in late October, and he either will have found the resources or not found them. But I’m not doing it. That’s not my business.”
Getting $30 million in three weeks will be a tall order, and top Republicans said they are skeptical it can be done, saying Gingrich has a large following but has hurt himself with his on-again, off-again approach to running.
Politico reported this week that since establishing American Solutions for Winning the Future late last year, Gingrich has pulled in $3.5 million, according to the group’s reports to the IRS.
Gingrich has said for a long time that through Saturday, he’ll be focused on “Solutions Day,” an American Solutions conference aimed at helping citizens change their government, from school boards to the White House.
The event kicked off with an overflow crowd of 1,200 in Cobb County, Ga., with live transmission on the Web, Dish Network and DirectTV. The event continues with a series of workshops Saturday.
“I’ve told Randy, who’s my senior adviser, that starting Sunday, he can talk to people around the country,” Gingrich said.
“And if by Nov. 1, there is sufficient interest that you could be competitive financially, I would seriously consider running. I think you have to have $30 million in pledges or you just can’t start, because [former] Governor [Mitt] Romney can just drown you. He can do what [John] Kerry did last time, except he can do it out of his own checking account. He doesn’t have to mortgage his wife’s house.”
Acknowledging it would be an uphill race, Gingrich said he thinks Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will be the Democratic nominee, and he said the Republican nominee has only about a 20 percent chance of winning.
But he said, “This is a center-right country. There’s no stretch of the imagination by which you can argue this is left-wing country.”
Gingrich called the $30 million threshold “a proxy for, ‘Is there a large enough base of support?’”
“If you had that level of intensity of support and it was that broad across the country, it would be pretty hard to imagine that you would turn and say ‘no,’ ” he said. “I think that’s what Reagan found in ’75. He had no intention of running,” but decided to by popular demand.
Technology is opening promising new avenues for an ideas-based campaign, Gingrich said.
“A candidate who wanted to, for example, for the price of a national ad, could probably send a DVD with their full position to every household in Iowa,” he said. “And say to the average person: ‘Is the future of your country, the future of your children worth one hour of your time? That’s all I’m asking.’ ”
Gingrich said he especially likes the idea of having dialogues with Democrats in the inner city “to talk about: What are you prepared to change in the current bureaucracy and the current power structure so that the people of this community have safety and have education and have jobs?”
Gingrich already keeps a busy schedule. He says he gives five to 15 speeches a week.
And he is co-author of a book coming out next month called “A Contract with the Earth” (Johns Hopkins University Press), which sketches what he calls “a green conservatism.”
That will be followed in January by “Real Change” (Regnery Publishing), which he said “talks about moving from the world that fails to the world that works.”
“I like American Solutions,” he said. “I think over a five- or 10-year period, American Solutions is going to be enormously important. I am reluctant to run for that reason. But ... Reagan got to this position in ’75. He didn’t want to run in ’76. He didn’t announce till Nov. 13. Although Nov. 6 is one year before the election. Not that we check on these things.”