Newt Gingrich's campaign staff has resigned en masse, raising questions about the future of the former House speaker's presidential campaign less than a month after it was formally launched.
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Senior staffers who confirmed the bombshell move to National Journal issued scathing assessments of Gingrich's one-month old campaign.
Rick Tyler, the Georgia Republican's longtime spokesman, said the decision to leave was "difficult" after knowing Gingrich for 12 years. But he indicated that Gingrich's decision to leave on an overseas vacation with his wife weeks into a fledgling campaign was the final straw for a staff rocked by a bumpy campaign launch.
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"The two-week vacation was not helpful," he said. Tyler said he and other staffers made up their minds to leave on Thursday and that they have made no decision about signing on to another campaign. But one of the aides who quit, David Carney, is a long-time New Hampshire-based strategist for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry is now reconsidering whether to get into the presidential race. Asked how much of a role that played in his decision, Carney said "Zero" in an email to National Journal.
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"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.
In addition to the members of Gingrich's national campaign team who are departing, his entire Iowa staff is also giving notice, according to a report in the Des Moines Register. Gingrich's campaign co-chair, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, defected to Tim Pawlenty's campaign. Perdue called Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor, "The only candidate who has laid out a real plan to grow the American economy."
Despite the apparent meltdown, Gingrich vowed to stay in the race. In a statement on his Facebook page, he said "the campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles." He is scheduled to participate in a televised debate Monday in New Hampshire.
But one spokesman who remains on board "enthusiastically," according to an e-mail he sent National Journal, refused to reveal on how much company he has in the office. Asked how many of his colleagues remain, Joe DeSantis said: "Will pass on commenting on that."
The exodus just four days before Gingrich's national TV debut as a presidential candidate seriously undermines the credibility of an already-shaky candidacy.
“Newt needed to have a home run at the debate coming up, and it’s going to be problematic if all of the questions center around his staff quitting,’’ said Matt Towery, a former Gingrich strategist and a friend.
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One of the first Republicans to endorse Gingrich, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, was strikingly noncommittal in his response to the news.
"The governor understands the speaker and his wife are on personal time and he has not yet had a chance to speak with him at this time on this matter," Deal's press secretary, Stephanie Mayfield, said in a statement.
Gingrich had several notable stumbles out of the starting gate. He first criticized House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's plans to privatize Medicare, then apologized for the criticism. And he has had difficulty explaining a bill for jewelry at Tiffany's. Gingrich this week returned to the campaign trail after an absence that Tyler explained was a "long-planned" vacation.
Lindsey Boerma, Cameron Joseph and Reid Wilson contributed.