ATLANTA -- The media filled the office of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Reporters were already buzzing about how crazy the week's worth of press stories had been. There had been assorted reports that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich would announce the formation of an exploratory committee for president -- and do so in Deal's office. Then came word that he wouldn't announce yet. Then that he would, and then that he might.
Both the national political media and the press in Georgia, Gingrich's longtime political home base, have been none too pleased with the way they believe they've been led to water by Gingrich but not offered anything to drink.
Some in media think he's crazy. And he is crazy. Crazy like a fox -- FOX News, that is.
I was in the room Thursday when Gingrich showed just enough presidential leg to merit a 20-second story on national TV. But make no mistake: The man intends to run for president. And if you're looking for more candor about this transitional period -- with its incessant talk about "exploratory committees" -- then the best place to look for it may be on FOX. That is the one media outlet that has kept his name identification high with hardcore Republicans. They did it by hiring him as a contributing analyst and commentator. Can you really blame Gingrich for signing on?
The Gingrich presidential effort has its early downside and a hidden upside. The downside came when Gingrich's press spokesman was forced to disavow an interview just days before Gingrich's visit to Georgia. The former speaker's longtime political consultant, Joe Gaylord, was interviewed by the Des Moines Register's nationally recognized political writer, Tom Beaumont.
Gaylord made it clear that Gingrich would announce the formation of an exploratory committee in Gov. Deal's office. The story moved across the wires within minutes. Three hours later, Gingrich's press spokesman issued a terse statement saying that no announcement would take place in Georgia. In essence, he said Gaylord was out of the communications loop.
It's one thing to openly disrespect Gaylord, a friend of Gingrich's from way back. It's altogether a worse sin to embarrass the Des Moines Register. Remember that it's their stories and editorials that shape events in the first presidential caucuses in Iowa.
The media gathered in Deal's office on Thursday weren't just confused when Gingrich only tantalized them with a hint that he'll be running. They were irritated. The former speaker said something to the effect that he is in the "exploration" phase of considering a run for the White House. All this fuzzy talk is the downside for Gingrich.