Newt's Place In The Market

With Newt Gingrich surging in the polls, I thought I'd reach back to something I wrote in June 2009. With Sarah Palin resigning as Alaska Governor, I wrote a feature article about the movement conservative marketplace she was entering.

...if she's looking for a model of success, she would do well to study at the feet of the master: former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich's large and growing empire illustrates the scope of the conservative marketplace. In 2007, Gingrich launched American Solutions for Winning the Future, a "527" organization that can raise and spend unlimited amounts — more than $14 million last year, almost all from small-dollar donors. He also created the for-profit American Solutions, which does the nonprofit's telemarketing. The Gingrich Group offers consulting. There is also the for-profit Center for Health Transformation, funded largely by pharmaceutical companies, and CHT Press, which thus far has published three books, including two by Gingrich. Gingrich Productions creates multimedia products. Most recently, he formed an umbrella group of religious conservative organizations.

He also has a deal with, a top right-wing portal Web site (and part of another multifaceted player in this marketplace, Eagle Publishing), to distribute a twice-weekly e-mail newsletter. Largely as a result of all this activity, he has one of the most coveted mailing lists in the business, which commands one of the highest premiums around (starting at $125 per 1000 names). Such lists of proven conservative contributors — who skew heavily toward white, suburban retirees with disposable income — are attractive not only to other conservative groups, but to companies selling financial services, health products, and other wares.

And all of these ventures — plus his contract as an FNC commentator, his highly lucrative speaking engagements, and his paid fellowships with prestigious conservative think-tanks — not only make money off the Gingrich name but promote it, placing him and his products in ever-greater demand.

I always thought that Gingrich teased himself up as a possible Presidential candidate every four years purely as a ploy to draw attention and gravitas -- brand marketing, essentially. And I thought that this time he decided that he had pulled that trick too many times, and to get away with it this time he would actually need to go through the full motions of a campaign. His lack of seriousness and discipline -- cruising in Greece when he should have been fundraising, for instance -- seemed to confirm that.

Regardless, he's leading in the Iowa polls one month before the caucuses. That could be very good for business -- or a disaster, depending on how hard he falls now.

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