The staff at Newt Gingrich’s Buckhead headquarters is gearing up for a big Southern push after the Florida primary Tuesday.
Volunteers will be in the Gingrich office Tuesday making get-out-the-vote calls to Floridians in hopes of swaying undecided voters in Gingrich’s campaign against Mitt Romney, whom polls show having a formidable lead in Florida.
A handful of volunteers were making calls Monday afternoon, with the bulk of the staff in Florida doing last-minute campaigning. Volunteers were also fielding calls from around the nation and from as far away as Australia.
Even if Gingrich falters in Florida, his local strategists are looking for a strong performance on Super Tuesday on March 6 in Georgia and Tennessee, although Gingrich will not be on the ballot in Virginia. He could also do well in the caucus in Alaska, whose former governor, Sarah Palin, has spoken favorably of Gingrich. Palin’s husband, Todd, has endorsed him. After Super Tuesday, the Alabama and Mississippi primaries follow in seven days.
“Newt will do well in Florida,” said adviser Rayna Casey Monday at the Buckhead office. “He blew it out of the water in South Carolina, and expects to do that again in Georgia and throughout the South.”
With Gingrich nailing down the support of former candidates Rick Perry and Herman Cain and former Tenn. Sen. Fred Thompson, there is “more and more momentum and consolidation” of the GOP’s conservative wing behind Gingrich, said Gingrich’s Southeast political director, Maria Zack. The Gingrich camp calls Romney a moderate, with views out of step in the conservative deep South.
A key Romney supporter in Georgia, House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, who represents Buckhead, countered that Romney is the GOP candidate with the best chance of defeating Democratic President Barack Obama next fall.
“First of all, Mitt Romney is a strong fiscal conservative who has the right kind of executive and business experience to get America back to work,” Lindsey said in a call to Buckhead Patch.
“After tomorrow, two things are going to become very clear to every Republican; first we need to defeat President Barack Obama on Nov. 12, and No. 2, Gov. Romney is the best candidate to do that,” Lindsey said. “I call for all Republicans to join with those of us who have endorsed Gov. Romney and push him over the top so that we can start focusing on President Obama.”
With former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum trailing in Florida, the campaign for the GOP nomination is expected to shift even more to a battle between Gingrich and Romney, with Texas Rep. Ron Paul continuing on with Libertarian support. After Florida, the pressure for Santorum to leave the race is likely to build.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal heads a strong group of state and local officials backing Gingrich, his Georgia supporters said. Gingrich also holds the support of most of Georgia’s congressional delegation, his office said, including Tom Price, who will represent Buckhead under reapportionment.
Romney also has core of Georgia backers. Nationally, Romney’s backers include John McCain, Robert Dole and George H.W. Bush. “All are moderates, and all lost the White House,” Zack said. Bush, George W. Bush’s father, was the incumbent president when he fell to Bill Clinton.
A big event Tuesday will be a conference call with Deal at 6 p.m. to rally supporters with an eye toward the Georgia primary, for which Gingrich is expected to make several stare campaign stops. Gingrich will also participate in a March 1 metro Atlanta debate, sponsored by CNN and the Georgia Republican Party.
With the state campaign gearing up, Gingrich’s Buckhead headquarters is also looking for volunteers in a variety of roles, such as phone bank representatives, precinct walkers, sign distributors and administrative workers.
“We have lots of volunteer opportunities for high school and college students, retirees, and everything in between,” said Sonia Harrison, director of Georgia operations.
The office on Maple Drive will receive a shipment of 25,000 Gingrich yard signs Tuesday, and the signs will be available to Bckhead residents who come by the office. The office is also giving away bumper stickers.