“When the campaign and the candidate disagree on the path, they’ve got to part ways,” said Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s longtime spokesman, who submitted his resignation Thursday.
In the immediate aftermath of the exodus, Gingrich pledged via a statement on Facebook to forge ahead with his candidacy.
“I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring,” Gingrich wrote. “The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles,” where he is scheduled to give a foreign policy speech.
But it is not clear how the former Georgia lawmaker will be able to resurrect an already floundering campaign without a campaign organization. Among those who departed Thursday were campaign manager Rob Johnson, strategists Sam Dawson and Dave Carney, and South Carolina consultant Katon Dawson.
Recent political history provides some rays of optimism for a Gingrich campaign recovery. In the 2008 presidential race, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) suffered a similar staff exodus in the summer of 2007. He slowly rebuilt his campaign, won the New Hampshire primary and went on to be his party’s nominee. But it’s not clear whether Gingrich has the organization or support from the GOP establishment to pull off a similar feat. Throughout his career, Gingrich has been known as a prolific idea man who has lacked management skills.
The shake-up appears to have been prompted, at least in part, by the decision by Gingrich and his wife, Callista, to take a two-week vacation, including a Greek cruise, at a time when the presidential candidate was stumbling. The campaign claimed publicly that the trip was long-planned, but, in fact, the Gingriches’ decision to vanish at a critical moment was fiercely opposed by some of his top advisers.
The abrupt getaway also fueled doubts that Gingrich would be willing to invest in the kind of grass-roots effort — including stumping in the early primary states, where he has continued to get a warm reception — that has kept his candidacy alive so far.
Regaining his footing as a candidate in a crowded 2012 GOP field presented a difficult challenge, even before Gingrich was abandoned by his high command.
Among the former speaker’s unforced errors was a disastrous interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” in which he criticized the House GOP’s plan to overhaul Medicare as “right-wing social engineering.” The remarks were seen as a rebuke to the plan’s author, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a rising GOP star whom many activists regard with the same kind of reverence that fueled Gingrich’s rise from the House’s back benches. Nearly every House Republican voted for the plan, and Gingrich’s comments could be used as ammunition against them.