Keith Appell, the Zelig of Conservative Sources

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 16 2012 10:43 AM

Keith Appell, the Zelig of Conservative Sources

On Tuesday night, the conservative strategist Keith Appell sent out an e-mail explaining why Newt Gingrich's campaign was over. "Newt has given it a great run," he wrote, according to BusinessWeek, "but Rick Santorum has earned a mano-a-mano shot at Mitt Romney."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Thus spake a strategist for the 2000 Steve Forbes campaign, the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans campaign, and Rick Scott's 2010 run for governor. It folded in nicely with one of the storylines of the night: Did conservatives want Newt to quit? At least one conservative did. He was a Santorum supporter (personally, not as one of his clients), and he'd been calling for this in the event that Gingrich didn't win either Southern state. So his inbox started buzzing; he buzzed back. With the exact same statement. To RealClearPolitics:

“Newt has given it a great run, but Rick Santorum has earned a mano-a-mano shot at Mitt Romney,” unaligned Republican strategist Keith Appell said Tuesday night. “Santorum has demonstrated clear strength in the Midwest, West and South and he has earned the opportunity to take on Romney in a two-man race. In fact, it’s clear that conservatives across the country are sending a clear message to the Republican establishment: ‘Nothing is over until we decide it is.’ ”
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Republican strategist Keith Appell in an e-mail last night was among those calling on Gingrich to quit. "Newt has given it a great run, but Rick Santorum has earned a mano-a-mano shot at Mitt Romney," Appell said.
Friend of The Note and conservative political strategist Keith Appell offers his take on Tuesday night’s results: “Newt has given it a great run but Rick Santorum has earned a mano a mano shot at Mitt Romney.  Santorum has demonstrated clear strength in the Midwest, West and South and he has earned the opportunity to take on Romney in a two-man race.  It is also abundantly clear from South Carolina to Georgia to Tennessee to Alabama and Mississippi that southern conservatives are thoroughly rejecting Mitt Romney.  In fact, it’s clear that conservatives across the country are sending a clear message to the Republican establishment: ‘nothing is over until we decide it is.’”

In the New York Times, Appel got quoted for that last part of theappeal.

“It’s clear that conservatives across the country are sending a clear message to the Republican establishment: ‘nothing is over until we decide it is,’ ” said Keith Appell, a conservative strategist.

When the Washington Post followed up on the "enough already, Newt" story, they went back to Appell, and got something fresh.

“There won’t be a lot of public pronouncements, but there will be a lot of private phone calls beginning today,” said conservative strategist Keith Appell, who is supporting Santorum. “As much as Newt may feel that he should stay in, his campaign is really living on borrowed time.”

Similar thing in the Wall Street Journal -- which, unlike the Post, claimed that Appell is unaligned.

Conservative strategist Keith Appell, who is unaligned in the race, says he and others worry the Romney campaign is banking too heavily on GOP distaste for Mr. Obama as its main motivating force among conservatives. "The anybody-but-Obama strategy may work, but no one really knows that for sure," he said. "It's a gamble in an election where we're going to need every possible vote from the Republican base."

As the week ended, he branched out. In BusinessWeek, he was an expert on Rick Santorum's let's-put-on-a-show outreach style.

“Romney’s inability to close out the race has given Santorum a golden opportunity to unite social conservatives behind him, and they are getting in line,” said Keith Appell, a Republican public relations executive who works with social conservative groups.

When we look at election results, we see a pattern: Voters are starting to hint, gently, that Newt Gingrich should maybe leave the race. Is the same thing happening inside the beltway? Hard to say. We keep hearing about this from the same guy! What explains his success?

"Many outlets just picked up and went with all or part of my reax email that I shot out Tuesday night after both Mississippi and Alabama were called for Santorum," says Appell. "It pays to combine an good list of media contacts with saying something that's actually coherent and plausible, and it pays to not inundate people."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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