Gingrich campaign suffers mass resignations from top staffers

Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign suffered what could be a fatal blow Thursday when at least a half a dozen senior aides resigned.

The former House Speaker (R-Ga.) lost his campaign manager, Rob Johnson; his longtime spokesman, Rick Tyler; his top lieutenants in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina; and other paid staff.

The resignations, along with Gingrich’s rough campaign rollout, raise serious questions about how his campaign will remain viable.

The former Speaker took to his Facebook page to downplay the news, writing that he would not be dropping out and that his campaign would begin anew.

“I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring. The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles,” he wrote.

Tyler, who had been with Gingrich for more than 10 years, confirmed the mass exodus, telling The Hill “the candidate and the campaign have different visions for victory.”

Tyler, known for his loyalty to Gingrich, did not speak negatively of the Georgia Republican, simply noting: “The candidate’s vision should prevail; and that’s why the staff has to leave.”

The advisers submitted their resignations on Thursday in Washington, D.C., where Gingrich’s campaign headquarters is based. The remaining campaign staffers, holed up in their K Street offices in downtown Washington, refused access to visitors.

Gingrich’s campaign has suffered from stumbling blocks since even before he announced. But the major breaking point appeared to be Gingrich’s recent vacation — shortly after he formally announced his presidential bid, he left on a two-week cruise in Greece with his wife, Callista. 

Also resigning were senior advisers Sam Dawson and Scott Rials, South Carolina director Katon Dawson, Iowa director Craig Schoenfeld and New Hampshire director Dave Carney, according to sources. Gingrich’s entire paid staff in Iowa also quit, the Des Moines Register reported.

Carney echoed Taylor’s reasons for leaving, saying there was a “fundamental disagreement” in campaign strategy.

“You can’t run a low budget campaign with a lot of paid folks on the payroll,” he told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Gingrich is scheduled to keynote the Republican Jewish Coalition dinner in Beverly Hills, Calif., Sunday night. He’s also scheduled to participate in Monday’s presidential primary debate in Manchester, N.H.

The big question he’ll face is how he rebounds from this blow.

It’s not the first time questions about Gingrich’s strategy have overtaken his message. 

His erratic campaign style has been an issue, and his campaign has struggled out of the gate. 

In March, when Gingrich was in Georgia and expected to announce his formal exploratory committee, his staff preempted any announcement with an advisory that the former Speaker wouldn’t be making such a statement. Instead, Gingrich announced a website exploring a White House bid.

Later, Gingrich stumbled in explaining his position on Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHillicon Valley: Mnuchin urges antitrust review of tech | Progressives want to break up Facebook | Classified election security briefing set for Tuesday | Tech CEOs face pressure to appear before Congress Feehery: An opening to repair our broken immigration system GOP chairman in talks with 'big pharma' on moving drug pricing bill MORE’s (R-Wis.) 2012 budget proposal, calling its Medicare reform proposal an example of “right-wing social engineering.” He ended up calling Ryan to apologize.

That was followed by revelations he had taken out hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit from the jeweler Tiffany & Co. to buy gifts for his wife — a tough image to defend during a period of economic despair.

Gingrich’s poll numbers tumbled after the early missteps. While he’d enjoyed early support that put him toward the top tier of candidates, the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that just 6 percent of Republican primary voters said they would like to see Gingrich win the nomination.

The former Speaker has admitted that his focus and discipline would be a major factor in how voters judge his campaign.

“I think it’s fair to say that ... one of the tests on this campaign trail is going to be whether I have the discipline and the judgment to be president. I think that’s a perfectly fair question,” he said in a May 15 appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

His campaign’s loss of staff could be another campaign’s gain, and early speculation has turned to Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry.

Perry is getting “serious” about running, CBS News reported Thursday evening, including talking with financial backers and advisers. 

Johnson, Gingrich’s former campaign manager, ran Perry’s successful reelection campaign last year, in which Perry faced a tough primary challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

Carney, Gingrich’s former director in New Hampshire, is also a former Perry staffer.

He declined to talk about any future plans, calling it “premature speculation.”

“That’s way down the road,” he told the Union Leader. “That speculation is sort of irrelevant to this event.”

Tyler said he’d heard no talk as of Thursday afternoon of an exodus of former Gingrich aides to support Perry.

One Republican presidential candidate has already snapped up a former Gingrich supporter.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s campaign announced Thursday evening that former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue will join its team, adding that “until today, Gov. Perdue was Newt Gingrich’s national campaign co-chair.”

-- This story was originally posted at 2:30 p.m. and was updated at 8:40 p.m.