I recently had the chance to chat with Matt Keller of DraftNewt.org. Here's our interview ...
ML: Thanks for joining us. Why did you decide to start Draft Newt?
MK: David Kralik, our former chairman was the original founder of Draft Newt. I came on in January as the Manager of Media Outreach. That being said I joined because whenever I hear Newt Gingrich speak, I leave inspired. Our country was founded on inspirational thinking; I wanted to help foster that by being part of the call to in turn inspire Newt Gingrich to run for president. He’s given so much to conservative thought in the past 20 or so years, I wanted to give something back.
ML: What legal restrictions do you have to contend with?
MK: Well due to campaign finance law under McCain-Feingold, we much like a 527 cannot have any contact with Newt Gingrich or coordinate with his team in any way. That being said we are not a 527 group.
ML: Okay, let’s talk about the process stuff, first. I notice your website has a Meetup icon on it. I haven’t seen one of those since 2004 (when they were de rigueur). It strikes me that the medium might be very good for what you’re doing, though. How are you utilizing Meetup, and other technology, for your cause?
MK: Meetup has been very useful because it allows our extra dedicated followers to gather at their own time and location. They can do their own thing whether it's coffee, dinner or drinks. They can also raise money as a group that they can contribute to our effort. Right now we also have three active internet media campaigns: facebook, youtube and myspace. Each one funnels back to our core site www.draftnewt.org. Facebook can easily replace Meetup with its "events" feature for those that don't want to use meetup.
ML: What do you think of the other draft movements? Clark had one. Rice had one. What did you learn from their efforts? Draft movements are the spirit of the American people. [# More #]
MK: The very first draft movement involved our very first president, George Washington. He didn’t seek the office. It was the people who called him as their candidate. It is in this spirit we created Draft Newt, and it’s in this spirit that people get involved with us every day. Let us not forget about the historic impact of a draft movement that occurred in 1964.
ML: Your website is arguably better than Newt’s. Who designed it, and what were your main goals for the site?
MK: Each member of the Draft Newt staff had a hand in its construction. We took each part and designed it how we wanted in terms of a real grassroots feel. Some campaigns end up coming off as detached, we take an active part in not letting that happen. As a result, we keep the information and ideas fresh. That being said, Newt's website is also very good and I visit it daily.
ML: Okay, now let’s get into why you are for Newt. Tom DeLay’s criticism of Newt seems to be consistent with what I’ve heard from some other insiders: that he’s brilliant, but unfocused. In fact, a lot of people think he’d better serve the movement by not running for president. How do you answer the people who say he’s a great idea man – but not a leader?
MK: Having not been in the closed doors meetings where these sorts of things are said about the Speaker, I can't attest to their comments personally. Newt Gingrich, however, is no less of a leader than he was when he led the Republican Revolution with the Contract with America. In fact, because of life experiences he’s grown as a leader. How can one not lead and have ideas at the same time? Ideas inspire and grow brain capital, much like low taxes grow the economy and inspire people to invest. Isn’t it time we called for a President like those of old, who inspired not just their base, but the American people as a whole?
ML: What about the divorces and other issues he faces – not to mention the way he was demonized by the Dems in the ‘90s. Don’t you think his negatives are going to be too high to sustain a presidential campaign?
MK: Your question suggests there won’t be a single Republican candidate who won’t be demonized by the Left in the coming election. This simply won’t be the case. The Clinton Machine is notorious for going after anyone in their way, performing character assassination to Democrat and Republican alike. It’s the other Democratic contenders that should be worried. I think once Newt goes in front of people as a candidate to discuss real American problems and real American solutions we will see the support where it matters, with the voters, not the media.
ML: What if Newt doesn’t get in? Who would you support if you had to pick from a Newt-less field?
MK: The desire for Newt Gingrich is strong. He constantly polls around 3rd place, higher than one of the supposed “top 3” candidates currently running. With all that is at stake in this next election and with the overwhelming desire from the people for a definitive Conservative candidate, how can he not run?
ML: One of the concerns that a lot of people have about Newt is that he’s very indicative of his generation. I’ve even heard some people go so far as to compare him to Bill Clinton. When you compare him McCain or Rudy – guys who have been through some really rough times -- do you see being a child of the 60s as being a handicap for him?
MK: I think anyone who survives the full onslaught from the Clinton political assassination machine is carved out of wood.
ML: Tell us a big about you. Where are you from, and what do you do for fun?
MK: Me, Personally? I’m from Mecosta County, Michigan, the resting place of Russell Kirk. Outside of politics I enjoy reading, cooking and social events with friends, thought not necessarily in that order.
ML: In closing, what’s one thing we should know about Newt?
MK: Well I can’t speak for the man personally but here’s something I believe, I believe he’s extremely frustrated with the system which allows so many of the social problems we experience today. The Left thinks the system is fine we just need more of it. Newt wants to change the system as a whole and how we look at it, not in a more government or less government perspective, but the way we approach government entirely.
ML: Thanks for joining us.
MK: My pleasure, and thanks for the opportunity to get our message out.