HIAWATHA – An endorsement from Iowa Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen sends a signal “it’s OK to be for me,” Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said.
“It’s tremendous,” the former U.S. House speaker said in Hiawatha Dec. 20 about the Paulsen endorsement that will be formally announced at an 8:30 a.m. State Capitol press conference Dec. 21.
Paulsen, a Hiawatha Republican, called Gingrich “a consistent conservative who has led this effort before and, I believe, can lead it again.”
“We need a president who is ready to lead and, more importantly, ready to release the energy of the American people and American spirit,” Paulsen said.
Gingrich and Paulsen will be joined in Des Moines by New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien will fly to Iowa to join Paulsen in endorsing Gingrich. Gingrich and O’Brien then will fly to New Hampshire to make the announcement there.
Paulsen’s endorsement came at a critical time for Gingrich. Polls in recent days have shown him faltering as a frontrunner. According to Public Policy Polling, Gingrich’s campaign is “rapidly imploding.” It found Texas Rep. Ron Paul to be the new Iowa caucus leader. Paul polled 23 percent to 20 percent for Mitt Romney and 14 percent for Gingrich.
A Gallup poll released Dec. 19 showed Gingrich’s lead over Romney had virtually evaporated. The two are statistically tied with Gingrich at 26 percent and Romney at 24 with Paul 11 percent.
Gingrich called the endorsement “tremendous” and had high praise for Paulsen as a “great speaker.” He specifically cited Paulsen’s leadership on forging the state budget.
“I think it really sends a signal about conservativism and competence,” Gingrich said as he signed books after a campaign town hall-style meeting at Level 10 Apparel.
The value of an endorsement is hard to measure, according to University of Northern Iowa political science instructor Christopher Larimer.
“At face value, a Paulsen endorsement probably doesn’t move the dial much,” Larimer said. However, if it was bundled with an endorsement by Senate GOP Leader Jerry Behn and a statewide Republican officeholder – Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, for example, Gingrich could claim widespread support of leaders in Iowa, he said.
“In short, the Paulsen endorsement is important, but it is only adding to a list of names most voters across the state may not think about on a regular basis,” Larimer said. “The real effect of Paulsen’s endorsement is probably among folks in Hiawatha and the surrounding areas who, to date, have remain undecided.”
Gingrich already has the endorsement of Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Garner, as well as Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton.
With those endorsements, “I feel like we have begun to build a base here,” Gingrich said.
That support “sends a signal for me organizationally that I think will make it easier for us to get organized in Iowa,” Gingrich said. “People who have been sitting on the fence right now will say that if he has both the speaker and majority leader it’s OK to be for me.”
Senate Minority Leader Jerry Behn, R-Boone, had endorsed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but has not endorsed another candidate since Pawlenty dropped out of the race.