As Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels became the latest potential candidate to take a pass on the Republican presidential race, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania announced Monday that he was filling out his campaign staffs in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Santorum has been pursuing a "tortoise" approach, steadily working the grass roots with more visits to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina than any other candidate, potential or announced, while the news has been dominated by Newt Gingrich's gaffes and successive decisions by big dogs to sit out the contest.
In Iowa, Santorum's exploratory committee is hiring Jamie Johnson, of the town of Stratford, as state coalition coordinator. Johnson is a tea-party organizer and a 20-year veteran of conservative campaigns across the nation. Also joining Santorum is April Baylor, of Ames, who will be assistant to state director Cody Brown. They join senior advisers Nick Ryan and Jill Latham and field director Lucas Draisey.
In New Hampshire, Kristin Beaulieu, of Nashua, and Tyler Carlisle, of Manchester, will serve as field representatives. Santorum's New Hampshire team is led by his national political director, Mike Biundo, who also is the state director, and field director Nick Pappas.
With last week's withdrawal by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and enjoyed strong support from social conservatives, Santorum is poised to pick up ground.
Gingrich has to divert attention
Not quite as poised, for the moment at least, is Gingrich. He had to take time on Sunday to explain that there was nothing strange about his credit arrangement with luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. that left him and his wife with a bill of up to a half-million dollars.
Gingrich stressed on CBS's Face the Nation that the debt, reported five years ago by Callista Gingrich on a financial-disclosure form for federal employees, was for a no-interest revolving account that had been paid off. The form listed debt of $250,000 to $500,000.
"I am debt-free," Gingrich said.
As host Bob Schieffer pressed for more details of the account, Gingrich said, "Go talk to Tiffany's. It's a standard, no-interest account." As for what he bought, Gingrich declined to say. "It's my private life," he said.
("The guy clearly buys his engagement rings in bulk," comedian Stephen Colbert quipped last week.)
Gingrich also addressed criticism of his disastrous first week on the Republican presidential campaign trail.
That began with a firestorm ignited on NBC's Meet the Press May 15, when Gingrich ripped as "social engineering" the House-passed GOP budget written by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which proposes converting Medicare into a voucher program to reduce spending and save the program. When conservative pundits and voters rebelled, Gingrich backtracked and even apologized.
"I probably used unfortunate language," Gingrich said Sunday, "but my point was really a larger one: that neither party could impose on the American people something that they are deeply opposed to."