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You may have heard reports that Newt Gingrich doesn't even have phones installed at his New Hampshire headquarters yet. The anecdote has been used to illustrate how unprepared the Republican presidential candidate was for his surge in the polls over the past few weeks.
But if you believe Andrew Hemingway, Gingrich's new state director for New Hampshire, it is more an illustration of the kind of campaign coming together up there.
"This is a really funny story and a tale of exactly what's happening here in New Hampshire and why this campaign is different," Hemingway said by phone from the headquarters in Manchester on Tuesday.
"I had a reporter come in, a pretty well-known reporter who I didn't know — this is the first campaign that I've ever run, so I'm not tied in to the whole media establishment — so the guy walks in, he asks us, 'So what are you guys using for phones?' And I held up my cellphone and I said, 'You know, we have cellphones.' And the next day I see in the paper a story about how the office doesn't have phones and then I hear Karl Rove talking on national television (about) how we don't have phones.
"I'm going, like, 'We have to have land lines?' " Hemingway said. "I mean, do we have to have a cart and buggy out back, as well, in order to be a real campaign? But hey, you know what, that's how it goes. We've got five lines now in the office and we are up and running."
At 29, Hemingway is not your typical presidential political operative. The last time we met him, back in March, he was working as the head of a major Tea Party organization in New Hampshire.
Now, with less than a month until the primary, the Gingrich campaign has tasked him with trying to harness the momentum in the state, where a new Rasmussen poll shows Mitt Romney at 33 percent, an 8 point drop from October, and Gingrich in second place at 22 percent, up from 8 percent in October.
On another phone line at the Manchester headquarters was former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, one of the few members of the political establishment in New Hampshire who is supporting Gingrich, not Romney.
Smith said the lack of establishment support in New Hampshire is one of the reasons he chose to leave his winter retreat in Florida three weeks ago to come campaign for Gingrich. "I can't sit on the sidelines with a guy like Gingrich fighting as hard as he can when he needs help," he said.
Hemingway said that kind of passion will win out over the money and organization of the Romney campaign — "and right now, we have passion and we have momentum on our side." But even better, he said, is "when you're able to organize that passion. And we are making up ground."
He also put a positive spin on the fact that the Gingrich campaign is just getting off the ground in New Hampshire, with the primary fast approaching on Jan. 10.
Acknowledging that the tight timeline is a challenge, he added, "it's also our greatest opportunity. Newt Gingrich has from the beginning promised that he's not going to run the traditional type of campaign. It's a tremendous opportunity to run and to build a campaign that does not follow the traditional mediums, that doesn't rely on some high-paid consultant who uses their buddies because that's what they've always done in every campaign and this is how you run a campaign."
Smith says the polling in New Hampshire supports Hemingway's perspective on the race. "If Romney is sitting around 30, 35 percent — that's where he's been," he said. "That means 60 to 65 percent of people are for somebody else in this primary, with the exception of Huntsman, all of whom are more conservative than Romney ... If those people decide after Iowa that they want to coalesce around a person, that's the danger for Romney and that's what I think he's worried about."
Both Smith and Hemingway say their goal is not to finish a close second to Romney in New Hampshire, a state where he has long been expected to win. They say they are there to win.
This program aired on December 14, 2011.
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