9:20am

Sun December 11, 2011
Presidential Race

Former Spokesman: 'Newt, If I Let You Down, I'm Sorry'

Judging by the attacks on Newt Gingrich at Saturday's GOP debate in Des Moines, Iowa, the former House speaker is the man to beat in the Republican presidential field.

The past few weeks have seen a remarkable turnaround for Gingrich's campaign. It wasn't long ago when his bid was all but left for dead. This summer, nearly his entire campaign staff resigned on a single day. One of those staffers was Gingrich's longtime communications aide Rick Tyler.

Tyler explains that he left because he lost perspective, but is now open to rejoining Gingrich's campaign.

"I've left that door open," Tyler tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "I want to help Newt."

Tyler says Gingrich is the man to beat in Iowa and South Carolina, states that are key to Republican presidential hopefuls.

"In many ways, the gap between he and Romney is closing in [New] Hampshire," Tyler says.

Gingrich's critics call him undisciplined. He speaks off the cuff at times. He recently suggested that the Palestinians don't have legitimate claims to statehood. But Tyler defends the former speaker's approach.

"I think there has been occasion in his career where he is seemingly undisciplined," Tyler says. "I've worked for Newt for over 12 years. He has always fostered a spirit of creativity and in many ways that's served him very well."

He credits Gingrich with several Clinton-era economic achievements: balanced budgets, welfare reform, tax cuts and job creation.

"That takes an extraordinary amount of strategy and creativity, and you have to foster creativity," Tyler tells Raz. "So Newt does often listen to a lot of ideas and talks out loud about a lot of ideas."

When asked what went wrong with Gingrich's campaign that caused so many people to leave over the summer, Tyler says: "I think Newt's biggest mistake actually was hiring senior advisers.

"Newt is probably the smartest political strategist in the country bar none. ... And it turns out when Newt is the senior strategist of his campaign you can see the results. When he wasn't, you saw the results there."

Tyler says he thinks of Gingrich as his family and "felt terrible" to learn that he might have hurt Gingrich's feelings by resigning.

"For my own part, I think I lost perspective in the campaign and that happens in politics from time to time," Tyler says. "We had an avalanche fall on us."

Tyler says that after the "onslaught of negative press and missteps," he thought Gingrich's campaign was doomed.

"I should have had the long view which Newt did, which is we're going to dig ourselves out of the avalanche and ascend the mountain. That's where he is today."

When asked if he was apologetic, he said: "Newt, if I let you down, I'm sorry."

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