With just four weeks to go until the Republican primary season begins, Newt Gingrich spent his Monday not on the hustings of Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, but in Midtown Manhattan, prospecting for what his newly resurgent campaign needs most desperately: money.
Bolstered by strong debate performances and top billing in some recent Republican polls, Gingrich cruised into the Union League Club for a fundraiser and news conference, followed by private meetings with potential high-dollar donors around Manhattan. Shortly before dinnertime, he made his campaign debut before the “Monday Meeting,” a weekly gathering at the Grand Hyatt that draws a mix of conservative financiers and intellectuals who are known for their fundraising clout.
The unusual excursion underscored the enormous challenge Gingrich faces as he seeks to take advantage of a late surge in popularity: At a time when most of the Republican candidates are hustling for votes, Gingrich must, in matter of weeks, build a fundraising infrastructure that can finance last-minute campaign trips, advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts in the early states and give him staying power to compete beyond them.
“He’s an old master at it, and he ought to be successful, because he’s now center stage,” said Alfred Hoffman Jr., a real estate developer from Florida who is one of the top Republican fundraisers in the country. “But it’s not just a question of how he can do it all in a month. It’s a question of how much he can spend in Iowa in a month.”
The challenge is especially stark for Gingrich, who until now has been among the weakest fundraisers in the field.
In late September, at the close of the most recent fundraising period, Gingrich reported that his campaign was more than $1 million in debt, three times the cash he had on hand. By that point, he had raised less than $2.9 million. By contrast, Romney had raised more than $32 million through Sept. 30.
Gingrich’s campaign said last month that he had raised $4 million since the beginning of the fourth quarter, fueled by his debate performances and conservative message. In an interview Monday, his spokesman, R.C. Hammond, said Gingrich would prevail by running a lean and strategic campaign, though he acknowledged that other candidates, such as Romney, would have an edge in fundraising.
“We don’t have to pay for consultants, we don’t need speechwriters — the candidate knows what he’s going to say,” Hammond said.
Gingrich begins his new push in a month when many wealthy donors and bundlers are more likely to be found skiing in Aspen or basking in the Caribbean than crowding into fundraising dinners.