"Would you like to leave now and beat the rush out of the parking lot?" the moderator asks.
"Thank you!" says fake-Gingrich, nodding, before walking off the stage.
Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond takes umbrage at the suggestion his candidate isn't putting his all into the campaign and pegs the accusation on the campaign's opponents, mainstream news media, and political strategists unfriendly to Gingrich. "We are not the political consultants' candidate for president," he says, adding later that "Newt as a candidate has a lot more confidence in the judgment of the American people than he does the editorial board of the New York Times."
Hammond says the campaign is opening offices in Iowa and New Hampshire in mid-October. "If there's a silent insurgency, it's coming from the Gingrich camp," he says. "We're very diligently building our organization. We are growing; we are picking up endorsements."
Conway thinks the accusation that Gingrich is slacking in the campaign come from stale examples, like the Mediterranean cruise he took with his wife and the fact that several campaign staffers left him, both in June, before front-runner Perry even joined the race. She also shoots down the idea that Gingrich might be running to promote himself. "He's putting his all into it in that he's defying the pundocracy who has written him off and said that he's the undercard," she says, adding that he already had plenty of book deals and a media platform before he got into the race. "Newt has placed an impressive ante into this presidential poker game because he already has things that people who run for president sometimes are seeking," she says.
But a less hyperactive campaign may not be all bad. Iowa Republican John Meyer, co-chair of Greene County's Republican Central Committee, says he sees Gingrich's campaign as "laid back" with less of a presence in Iowa at this point than Perry or Bachmann, but he respects that Gingrich doesn't focus on attacking the other candidates. Meyer hasn't committed to a candidate, but he did vote for the former speaker in August's Iowa straw poll. Meyer appreciates that Gingrich doesn't talk around issues. "He seems like he's planned ahead; he's got the specific things he wants to do, and makes specific suggestions," Meyer says. "That's what I like about him."
The Tea Party Nation's Phillips agrees that Gingrich's calm progress is what will help him thrive in a volatile field. He's seen Bachmann and Perry flash onto center stage quickly only to fade. "What it will take for Gingrich is just some more time," Phillips says. He thinks Gingrich's ideas are what will draw him into the top tier, and that the 21st Century Contract With America is a good first step. If the new package, which Gingrich will release Thursday, is as innovative as the 1994 original, Phillips says, "I think it will help him gain traction for what hopefully will be that slow, steady climb to the top."