Gingrich top aides abandon campaign
June 10th, 2011
06:10 AM ET
7 years ago

Gingrich top aides abandon campaign

Washington (CNN) – At least seven members of Newt Gingrich's senior campaign staff resigned Thursday, sources told CNN, but the Republican presidential candidate pledged he would start his campaign "anew."

In addition, one of his national campaign co-chairs defected Thursday to former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign, according to a Pawlenty campaign release. Former Gov. Sonny Perdue of Gingrich's home state of Georgia moved over to the competing campaign.

The staff resignations included his campaign manager Rob Johnson and long-time Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler. Also departing are Gingrich strategists Dave Carney and Sam Dawson. Consultants Katon Dawson, who is based in South Carolina, Craig Schoenfeld, who is based in Iowa, and Scott Rials, who is based in Georgia, have left as well as six staff members in Iowa and Perdue.

Gingrich held a meeting Thursday with Johnson and Dawson to discuss disagreements between the candidate and his staff. Tyler said the discussion was about "Newt as a candidate and control of the campaign and scheduling."

The aides resigned when an agreement was not reached, but Tyler said aides are "always hopeful for a mutually agreeable path forward."

But when a campaign and a candidate do not see eye to eye "they've got to part ways," Tyler told CNN.

"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 told CNN.

Gingrich responded to the events on his Facebook page Thursday.

"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," Gingrich wrote.

An aide told CNN that "Newt will participate in Monday's debate in New Hampshire as originally planned."

CNN, WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader are sponsoring a GOP presidential debate Monday in Manchester.

Gingrich was absent from the campaign trail for about two weeks recently because of a "planned vacation" with his wife, Callista. He returned with a campaign stop Wednesday in Hudson, New Hampshire.

Tyler said the "vacation was not helpful."

And Craig Schoenfeld, former Iowa Executive Director for Newt 2012, who confirmed all six of Gingrich's paid staff members in Iowa resigned, said "the timing was unfortunate but it's not directly related to his vacation." They already had the sense before the vacation that Gingrich wasn't committed to spending the time in Iowa that it takes to win.

"Bottom line is there was a difference of opinion in how we saw a path to success and victory," Schoenfeld said.

The difference of opinion centered on "commitment of securing and deploying campaign resources and commitment of candidate time to the campaign trail."

"I knew what it was going to take to be successful in Iowa, the New Hampshire team knew what it was going to take to be successful in New Hampshire, the South Carolina team knew what it was going to take to be successful in South Carolina," Schoenfeld said. "As a team we were all in unison on that approach," but the candidate they were working for was not.

His decision was made after a series of meetings between the national staff about where, what, who, when and how to approach the rest of the campaign. Schoenfeld was not a part of those meetings, but the message was conveyed to the state directors after those meetings that the candidate had a different type of campaign in mind.

Schoenfeld said he has not been approached by any other campaign, and as far as he knows none of his staff has either. When Newt's national campaign staff told him about their strategic differences with the candidate, they did not ask him to sign on with another candidate instead.

One of the Gingrich staffers who resigned said it wasn't a personal issue, but there was a big question about his ability to raise money and the candidate's commitment to early voting states particularly Iowa.

"There is a shortage of money," the staffer said. "It is a tough day and a tough world out here in the fundraising and political arena."

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Gingrich didn't make the "time to go and shake hands with voters."

The departures of Johnson and Carney are already fueling speculation about a potential candidacy by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Perry recently said he plans to consider a Republican presidential bid after the Texas legislative session concludes, and both Carney and Johnson are two of the governor's top political advisers. Their resignation from the Gingrich campaign would free them up to assist Perry if he decides to run.

Despite the 2012 chatter, Perry's office insists that the governor has no current plans to run for president.

Perdue, who joined Team Pawlenty Thursday, is very close to Pawlenty's campaign manager, Nick Ayers, who ran Perdue's gubernatorial campaign.

"Tim Pawlenty is a great man, he was a phenomenal governor, and he is the person I now believe stands the greatest chance of defeating President Obama," Perdue said in a statement. "He is the only candidate who has laid out a real plan to grow the American economy, and his track record in Minnesota is proof he's the right man for the job."

The former House Speaker announced his bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination on May 11.

He is best known for engineering the Contract with America and leading the Republicans' surge to power in Congress in 1994 but his reputation took a hit in 1995, when a budget standoff in the House led to a temporary shutdown of parts of the federal government. Republicans didn't fare well in the 1998 elections, and Gingrich stepped down.

- CNN's Mark Preston, Peter Hamby, John King, Kevin Bohn and Adam Aigner-Treworgy contributed to this report.

– On Monday, June 13, CNN will host the first New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate, live from Manchester, NH at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news leading up to the debate on and @cnnpolitics on Twitter.

Filed under: 2012 • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. socal frank

    this is a first - the ship deserting the rat.

    June 9, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  2. littletingod

    The first GOP domino to fall. How many others will follow? Actually, I hope they all stick around. Then maybe, just maybe people will see the GOP as the clown party it is.

    June 9, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. Shep

    What a clown!

    June 9, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. Jobu

    His staff didn't "resign"....he demanded EVERYONE'S resignations, then chose which ones to accept. He fired those people – they didn't volunteer to leave....

    June 9, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Did Newt take them on the cruise of relaxation with him or shopping at Tiffany's, no. Why would any fool want to do the grunt work for Newt while he enjoys the benefits.

    June 9, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  6. Anticipatioin

    You would think he would do a public opinion poll before he started his campaign. I would think that would be enough for him to change his mind and spare us the drama. When I think of Newt I think of mud wrestling.

    June 9, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  7. CynicLgrrl

    Observe this species of 'Floundering Newt' in his natural habitat.

    June 9, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "They quit because Calista was trying to tell everyone how to do their jobs."

    You sure about that? I mean, she looks like a mannequin advertising botox treatments...I'm not all that sure she has all that much to say.

    June 9, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. SCOTO

    rats / sinking ship

    June 9, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. Gwats, Denver, CO

    A little Early for your campaign to have the stink of death on it, don't you think? These guys know a lost cause when they see one.

    June 9, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  11. sieve

    I wish all other candidates were smart as Newt.
    If Obama had half percent of Newt's knowledge and mentality our country would be in a better condition.

    June 9, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  12. Vader

    Drop out Newt. You don't have the 'fire in the belly' (nor any semblance of a chance).

    June 9, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. Gerry

    did he surround himself with people that are smarter than he is?

    June 9, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. George

    I hope Romney runs. The religious cult minority has always been underrepresented in this country.

    June 9, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    Newt, like so many other "conservatives," thinks that all we need to do is give more money to the wealthy and all of our problems will be solved.

    He's either stubbornly naive, stubbornly ignorant or stubbornly evil to admit that tinkle-down economics JUST DOESN'T WORK! If it did, after 10 years of Bush tax cuts for the rich, we wouldn't have the unemployment that we do.

    Even Reagan could admit his mistake after cutting taxes while building up the military and see that to balance the budget, you have to increase revenue – and Reagan did, by RAISING TAXES 9 times during his presidency!

    When are Newt and the wealthy going to accept that we are on to their scheme of siphoning off America's wealth to bankroll their global expansion? That they need to bite the bullet and start investing in OUR country?

    Where is the loyalty of these people to the nation that gave them the opportunity to create their wealth in the first place?

    June 9, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. JohnRJohnson

    My guess is that their mass departure was caused by Newt's recent signing of another pledge which would require him, if elected, to attend a special class on how to reduce the deficit prior to his inauguration. This class, of course, would be conducted by a right-wing organization that would attempt to control or limit crucial economic decisions of the next president. In effect, it would supersede the Constitution. Gingrich isn't stupid, but his desperation to win the hearts and minds(?) of the Republican base is impairing his judgment. He's out of control, and that's why his staff resigned.

    June 9, 2011 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. asdf

    Stick a fork in him Newt is done. He broke Republican commandment #1, ideology always over truth. Strange as lying as never been a problem for him before.

    June 9, 2011 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    So even this dude's handpicked team bailed on him? Ok, so with that in mind, this guy is expecting people to vote for him for FREE? He was PAYING THEM and they still bailed. LOL
    Soooooo true!!!!

    June 9, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  19. lance corporal

    newt is responsible for upping the hostility in a massive way in the early 90s, he has done real harm to our country, he has failed god, country and his own sacred vows, he is a low life of the lowest sort

    June 9, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  20. Diana LMN

    When Newt was preaching "Family Values" on one hand while having a long-term affair, he lost a lot of votes and a lot of integrity.

    June 9, 2011 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  21. JackInNH

    This man has never really been relevant in American politics, but the right wing media will prop him and all the other has-beens up as if they are. Like most politicians, his bloated ego won't let him face the truth. He'll just write another book, which Sean Hannity will shamelessly promote and the farce will continue.

    June 9, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. clarke

    Newt, I think it is time to move on. You have a nice life, retire and enjoy.

    June 9, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The difference of opinion centered on "commitment of securing and deploying campaign resources and commitment of candidate time to the campaign trail."
    TRANSLATION: The campaign hasn't even gotten off the ground yet and we're broke alreay. Payroll checks bouncing higher than Mt. Olympus!
    The Dude is not even around to generate income by kissing the necessary butts, and saying the prerequisite things. He biotched any chance at the big bucks his first week out the gate.
    The Tea Party has us in their crosshairs. We're outta here!

    June 9, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. wishing

    I dislike the expression, "stick a fork in him". It is too graphic. Let's just say, "he's done".

    June 9, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    There goes Newts " Contract on America " !

    Hope he paid them off before they walked.

    June 9, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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