Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will tap Rob Johnson to manage his GOP presidential bid, iWatch News learned Friday.
Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s long time communications aide who will be campaign press secretary, said Johnson will get the top campaign post. Johnson became an adviser to Gingrich about six weeks ago.
The 36-year-old Johnson is well known in Texas GOP circles, but running Gingrich’s presidential drive is likely to be considerably more challenging than his previous experience. Johnson ran Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s successful re-election campaign last year. Earlier he served as campaign manager for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in 2002 and then became his chief of staff.
Tyler said Johnson’s “special strength is how to harness the Internet for modern campaigns. He did that in Texas and he will have the same capability for Gingrich nationally.”
Gingrich will formally enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination by May 13.
In a surprise move, Tyler said Gingrich’s closest political adviser, Joe Gaylord, will remain as CEO of American Solutions for Winning the Future, the 527 political committee that Gingrich set up about five years ago to promulgate conservative positions. In that period, the 527 has raised a whopping $52 million, of which $7 million came from Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
“I’m confident that American Solutions will continue to promote issues from a conservative perspective,” said Tyler. But the 527 can’t coordinate its work in any way with the Gingrich campaign, he said.
Charlie Black, a veteran GOP strategist, praised the “constant stream of good advice that Gaylord has given Gingrich for over two decades.” But Black stressed that if Gaylord remains as CEO of American Solutions, “he cannot be involved in the campaign in any way.”
Tyler also said that Sam Dawson, a protégé of Lee Atwater who has been advising Gingrich this year as he explored making a run for the White House, will be a senior political consultant to the campaign. Dawson, who worked for former Gov. Carroll Campbell of South Carolina and has been close to Gingrich since the mid 1990s, also did a stint as the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.