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Newt Gingrich celebrated his win in the South Carolina primary with a fundraising blitz, a two-day push to raise as much money as possible. The campaign says it brought in $2 million. That money will come in handy in Florida. But as NPR's Peter Overby reports, the need for quick fundraising shows the precarious state of the Gingrich campaign's finances.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The campaign first set a target of $1 million and then doubled it. Spokesman R.C. Hammond says they made it.
R.C. HAMMOND: Most of that is coming in online, and a lot of it is coming in the mail. People are being very generous writing checks. But what it means for us is that we're going to have the money to compete on air, on television and radio here in Florida.
OVERBY: It's just-in-time campaign finance, the kind of thing politicians hate. Hammond says there are benefits in building a network of small donors.
HAMMOND: We can go back again and again to these folks, and as long as they continue to be generous to us, we will continue to be successful with the money they give us.
OVERBY: But ever since he announced, Gingrich has been on a financial roller coaster. The fundraising started out all right, although far behind the then-frontrunner Mitt Romney. But donors seemed to give up on Gingrich, only to come running back when businessman Herman Cain left the race. The Gingrich campaign says it raised $9 million in the fourth quarter. And yet by last week, that money was pretty much gone. The campaign manager fired off an email plea, quote, "we're surging and in position to win South Carolina, but we've still got to raise about 100K to fund our TV ads in the next 24 to 48 hours," unquote. And at a press conference, Gingrich begged for cash, too, right after slamming the traditional analysis of money as a measure of political strength.
NEWT GINGRICH: Are there things going on in America that don't fit the consultant big-money model? Now having said that, let me take this opportunity with all of these cameras to say we would love to have anybody who would like to go to Newt.org and donate, it would be very helpful, and it will make Florida work much better.
OVERBY: Actually, to make Florida work better, the Gingrich camp will need a lot of money and fast.
KEN GOLDSTEIN: If he's got it, he'll be spending it in Florida.
OVERBY: That's Ken Goldstein of Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group.
GOLDSTEIN: TV advertising is going to be much more important in Florida, because it's a big state, and they only got seven days.
OVERBY: A big state as in more than 800 miles from Key West to Pensacola, 10 media markets, $1.6 million dollars a week for a good ad buy on TV. But just yesterday, Gingrich got a big break. It was disclosed that a donor is giving $5 million to the pro-Gingrich superPAC Winning Our Future. It's an independent operation run by former aides. The donor is Miriam Adelson of Las Vegas. Her husband is Sheldon Adelson, a casino billionaire who gave the superPAC five million just two weeks ago. Ken Goldstein says that Sheldon Adelson's money helped to put Winning Our Future on the air in South Carolina, something the campaign itself was struggling to do.
GOLDSTEIN: Winning Our Future aired about twice as many ads than Gingrich did. So of ads aired on behalf of Newt Gingrich or against Newt Gingrich's opponents, two out of three were Winning Our Future.
OVERBY: Winning Our Future goes up on Florida TV today. That's three weeks after the pro-Romney superPAC began hitting the state with $2 million worth of mail, email and TV. So those $5 million from Miriam Adelson loom large right now. John Green is a political scientist at the University of Akron.
JOHN GREEN: Large infusions of cash from one or a small number of donors can be the difference between a campaign being viable or being ineffective.
OVERBY: There may be other multimillion-dollar donors like the Adelsons. We won't know until disclosures are made next week and next month. And here's another unknown. Miriam Adelson doesn't want her money used for attack ads. It's hard to predict what effect this will have on the messages from those who are trying to make Newt Gingrich the Republican nominee. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.