Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination blew up Thursday afternoon when his top advisers resigned en masse, following a disastrous rollout and serious disagreements about strategy.
Spokesman Rick Tyler, the guardian of Gingrich’s image for the past 12 years, quit, as did senior strategist Dave Carney and campaign manager Rob Johnson. The entire Iowa staff also bailed.
“The professional team came to the realization that the direction of the campaign they sought and Newt’s vision for [the] campaign were incompatible,” Carney said.
The implosion was a serious blow to Gingrich’s chances of winning the nomination, which most political handicappers had considered a long shot from the start. Gingrich, who was speaker in the 1990s, had been out of elective politics for a long time, carried personal baggage in the form of three failed marriages, and has an abrasive style.
Gingrich, however, insisted Thursday he is staying. “I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring,” Gingrich said on his Facebook page. “The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.”
The resignations increased speculation that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was seriously considering running for president, despite earlier disavowals, since Carney and Johnson are longtime advisers to Perry. Carney said his decision “was not related” to Perry.
A former history professor, Gingrich has been a productive source of ideas in the GOP as a lecturer, writer and television pundit, and he cast himself as an intellectual counterweight to President Obama.
His campaign’s first two weeks were disastrous, however. Just days after announcing, Gingrich went on Meet the Press and denounced the Republican budget plan for Medicare “right-wing social engineering” that would never sell. On the same show, he endorsed an individual mandate to buy health insurance, a central feature of Obama’s national overhaul – and a non-starter for the GOP’s conservative base.
Then came the revelation that Gingrich and his wife Callista had a revolving credit account of up to $500,000 with luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co.
But the last straw, former staffers say, was Gingrich’s decision to take a long-planned vacation cruise to Greece with his wife last week amid the turbulence of his campaign’s early weeks. It helped convince them he was not serious.