Newt Gingrich's 2012 presidential campaign has been on life support since the mass departure of key staff made major headlines two weeks ago. As charismatic new faces have entered the race, more and more media attention has dwindled away from the former Speaker of the House. In a move to perhaps shake things up, Gingrich has devoted recent events and fundraisers to "pet causes," such as Alzheimer's, in order to work his way back into the 2012 discussion. Washington Post:
"For most presidential candidates, Alzheimer’s is a third- or fourth-tier subject, at best.
But as Gingrich sees it, Alzheimer’s, as well as other niche topics such as military families’ concerns and pharmaceutical issues, are priorities for passionate patches of the American electorate. By offering himself as a champion of pet causes, Gingrich believes he can sew together enough narrow constituencies to make a coalition — an unconventional one, yes, but a coalition nevertheless."
Gingrich focused on Alzheimer's heavily at a private fundraiser last week in Newport Beach, CA, in addition to championing the issue among others on Fox News this Monday:
"'I’m going to campaign on, how do we deal with Alzheimer’s, which really affects millions of Americans,' Gingrich said. 'I want to campaign on issues such as, how do we fundamentally reform the Food and Drug Administration so we can create American jobs with the best new medicines?'"
The move to focusing on more distinct and neglected issues may not come as too great of a surprise considering Gingrich is often associated as a thinker capable of producing "big ideas."
"'Newt has been seen for the better part of 20 years as somebody who can look at problems and come up with conservative solutions to those problems,' said Republican lobbyist Robert Walker, a longtime Gingrich confidant. 'The issue that needs to be established is whether or not he’s able to translate those ideas into real action as president.'”
The change of pace is perhaps needed for a lagging Gingrich campaign. The former Speaker finished sixth in the Republican Leadership Conference straw poll on June 18, and tied for fourth in the June 25 Des Moines Register Iowa poll. Some of the departing staffers complained about Gingrich giving his wife too large a role in the campaign. One former advisor said, "I think the world of him, but at the end of the day we just could not see a clear path to win, and there was a question of commitment."
Considering the statements of his former staff and his new focus on underrepresented issues, the question on Gingrich moves to "We know he can find problems and suggest solutions, but can he follow through in implementing them?"