WASHINGTON -- A new e-book on the 2012 election released Friday says that Republican candidate Newt Gingrich went on an ill-timed cruise to Greece this year and spent over $1 million in jewelry at Tiffany's to "buy off" his reluctant wife, Callista, so that she would not object to his running for president.
The book does not cite named sources, and the Gingrich campaign immediately dismissed the sniping from former campaign officials. Several of Gingrich's former top campaign advisers now work for rival candidate Rick Perry. The book, from Real Clear Politics' Tom Bevan and Carl Cannon, raises the question of whether Gingrich's former aides were talking to Perry before they left in June. The Perry aides deny the accusation.
"Election 2012: The Battle Begins," does not offer evidence that current Perry advisers Dave Carney and Rob Johnson left Gingrich because Perry had begun to express interest in running for president himself. But the question lingers.
The vitriol expressed for Callista Gingrich in the e-book is intense. The sentiments have been aired before. What is new is the lengths to which Gingrich's former aides -- who worked for Perry for years before taking on Gingrich as a candidate -- go to trash Callista Gingrich.
"She's the single worst influence on a candidate I've ever seen," one "campaign strategist" told Bevan and Cannon. This same source said that Gingrich bought "a necklace reportedly worth six figures ... to 'buy Callista off' so she'd acquiesce to a presidential run."
Gingrich's ex-aides said that the former House Speaker from Georgia ignored their advice not to go on a luxury cruise to the Greek islands in late May because he feared damage to, or even the loss of, his marriage to his third wife, a woman 22 years his junior, whom he wed after carrying on an extramarital affair for six years.
"In Newt's mind, it was the cruise or his marriage. And he didn't want to get married a fourth time," said a source identified by Cannon and Bevan as "a person with knowledge of the discussions."
Gingrich's troubles as a candidate kicked into high-gear in mid-May when he made an ill-advised comment about Paul Ryan's budget on "Meet the Press," followed by revelations of his line of credit at Tiffany's. On May 26, Perry told the Texas press corps he was thinking about running for president, following months of disavowals. On May 28, Gingrich went against his advisers and departed for the cruise. On June 9, the Gingrich aides resigned.
Carney is quoted as saying his departure from Gingrich was "totally unrelated" to his decision to join Perry's campaign. Carney did not respond to e-mails from The Huffington Post seeking comment. Johnson told HuffPost that the allegations were not true.
When Carney, Johnson, Dawson, spokesman Rick Tyler and others departed the Gingrich campaign, Tyler told HuffPost that the rift was caused by disagreement over how the campaign should be run. But those issues are not mentioned by the former Gingrich aides who spoke with Cannon and Bevan.
The RCP book and the new shots at Callista Gingrich come as her husband is rising in the polls and is increasingly spoken of -- on the back of a series of strong debate performances -- as the potential top alternative to Romney. The irony is that Gingrich's ascendancy has come as a direct result of Perry's collapse over the last six weeks.
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond gave a snappy response.
"My hunch is this story will have a happy ending," Hammond told HuffPost.
Cannon and Bevan's e-book is the first such publication of the 2012 campaign. It was released Friday for $2.99 by Crown Publishing, and will be followed by two more installments in the spring and then in August. A hardcover print book about the entire election will be released in early 2013 after the election concludes a year from now.
Next week, another similar project will get off the ground, when the first of four 2012 e-books by Politico's Mike Allen and former Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas will go on sale. Allen and Thomas' book is being edited by former Newsweek editor-in-chief Jon Meacham and is also being published by Random House.
The two projects are a new form of long-form political journalism. Reading the first RCP installment is both gratifying and disorienting. It recalls the high points of the race so far and contextualizes them. For example, it does a good job of pinpointing the significant impact of three days in Orlando. Perry's "heartless" comment in the Sept. 23 debate, followed by his straw poll loss on Sept. 25, hurt him badly.
But the altitude is incomplete. It's a bit jarring to read about the addition to the Perry campaign of new advisers such as Joe Allbaugh, Curt Anderson, Tony Fabrizio and Nelson Warfield -- which happened on Oct. 24 and feels like it was just yesterday -- in book form. In addition, the narrative does not have the most recent developments this week of the state election results across the country and Perry's disastrous debate performance.
Those are shortcomings of the medium, however, and it's a good bet that political junkies, at least, will overlook them to get their fix on a digestible narrative of the race up to this point. The book covers a lot of ground, beginning the day of President Obama's inauguration and tracing the roots of the Tea Party back to a revolt in Indiana against property tax increases in 2007.
Bevan and Cannon also deliver some good nuggets that will delight political observers. Among the best is the advice that some of Rep. Michele Bachmann's advisers gave her on how to greet Perry the day after he entered the race. Bachmann and Perry both appeared at a Lincoln Day dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, on Aug. 14, the day after Bachmann won the Ames Straw poll.
Ed Rollins, who is now Bachmann's former campaign manager -- Bevan and Cannon scoop that Bachmann promised Rollins "total control" of the campaign but would not relinquish it -- and his deputy David Polyansky told Bachmann she should sidle up to Perry in front of the TV cameras and smile sweetly while tweaking him for his days as a "yell leader" at Texas A&M.
"Governor, from one former cheerleader to another, I'd like to welcome you to Iowa. You're a couple of months late, but that's OK," Bachmann could have said.
But, the two authors write, another close Bachmann confidante named Brett O'Donnell disagreed, and nixed the idea. Bachmann stayed in her bus until she spoke, and was upstaged by Perry, who stayed in the audience to hear her speak and who spoke to voters and answered questions from reporters.
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