Gingrich to skip "Newt Hampshire" during trip to Harvard

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich greets supporters during a rally at the Jacksonville Landing, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011, in Jacksonville, Fla.
AP Photo/Stephen Morton
Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich greets supporters during a rally at the Jacksonville Landing, Nov. 17, 2011, in Jacksonville, Fla.
AP Photo/Stephen Morton

This article originally appeared on RealClearPolitics.

Mitt Romney is spending Friday stumping in New Hampshire, where he will attend a luncheon and a Chamber of Commerce forum -- typical stops in the life of a presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich's schedule puts him just about 50 miles down the road from the Republican front-runner, whom the former House speaker is trying to catch in the New Hampshire polls.

But Gingrich does not plan on setting foot inside the first-in-the-nation primary state that his campaign recently dubbed "Newt Hampshire."

Instead, he will appear with his wife, Callista, in the liberal Massachusetts bastion of Cambridge, where he will chat with Ivy League students and professors at Harvard's Institute of Politics after screening his documentary-style movie "A City Upon a Hill."

Gingrich's only other public event of the day takes him down the road to Harvard Square, where he will sign copies of his most recent tome on American exceptionalism, "A Nation Like No Other."

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Although Romney is the runaway favorite to win the Massachusetts primary, Bay Staters will not even have the opportunity to hear Gingrich apply the lessons from his film to his own campaign: According to a Web site promoting the screening, a Harvard ID is required to gain admission to the event.

Gingrich often weaves film screenings and book signings into his campaign schedule, as he did Monday in Carroll, Iowa, where he last showed the movie.

Though his campaign justifies the practice as an effective way to communicate his message, selling books is an unorthodox way for a presidential candidate to spend his time with less than two months to go before voting begins.

"Herman Cain is running on 9-9-9, and it looks like Newt is running on 'mine, mine, mine,'" Republican strategist Mike Murphy joked. "I think Newt is hankering back to the days when if you were a leading American citizen, you could run for president this way, and it was much less about the fetish we now have for the nuts and bolts of a state-by-state campaign."

Two Gingrich aides did not respond to inquiries about the nature and political utility of the Harvard event, but spokesman R.C. Hammond told the Boston Globe earlier this week that the venue was an appropriate one for the candidate to make "one of the larger arguments about what his campaign means" and noted that the Boston media market reaches into southern New Hampshire.

Gingrich will return to the nation's first voting state of Iowa on Saturday, and his campaign says he will spend about 30 of the next 50 days there leading up to the caucuses on Jan. 3.

Additionally, Gingrich has significantly beefed up his New Hampshire staff and will meet Monday with the editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader in Manchester and likely will make additional campaign stops that day.

The former speaker is not the only Republican candidate who has chosen venues of questionable political importance to hawk his wares in the midst of the campaign. Back in early October, for example, Cain went on a cross-country tour to promote his book, "This Is Herman Cain!"

Still, the exclusive Harvard venue is an attention-grabbing campaign trail stop for the former history professor turned top-tier Republican candidate, who frequently rails against "elites" in academia and the media.

While a Romney spokesperson took a pass at commenting on Gingrich's Harvard jaunt, a top aide to Rick Santorum -- who is running what is likely the most traditional campaign of any candidate in the field -- was eager to issue a backhanded compliment.

"It's about time -- Harvard needs at least one conservative book on campus," said Hogan Gidley, Santorum's national communications director. "I do realize though that we're running a pretty non-conventional campaign for president -- one where you actually run for president."

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.