Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry (search) on Thursday shrugged off the dismissal of his campaign manager and the subsequent departure of two senior staffers, saying his campaign "will be better off moving ahead with people who want to be there."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Kerry said the firing of campaign manager Jim Jordan (search) on Sunday was proof of his ability to make tough decisions. Within days of Jordan's dismissal, Kerry's press secretary and deputy finance director quit.

"When you change one person, it is not at all unusual that a couple of people that person hired, that I barely know, who are not really involved with me, decide to go," Kerry said.

Robert Gibbs (searchhad been chief spokesman for the Massachusetts senator and Carl Chidlow (searchhad been deputy finance director since late January, according to the campaign. Both quit on Tuesday after nearly a year on the Kerry team.

"What's important is that I as a chief executive made a tough decision. And if somebody else is not loyal to me but is loyal to the manager, they don't belong in the campaign," he said. "My campaign will be better off moving ahead with people who want to be there. I think it underscores why I had to make a change."

Gibbs will be replaced by Stephanie Cutter, a former spokeswoman for Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and currently the spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention.

Jordan was replaced Monday by Mary Beth Cahill, who was Kennedy's chief of staff. The switch, less than three months before voters in Iowa participate in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, was designed to jump-start Kerry's campaign by signaling to fund-raisers and activists that he was addressing problems that have caused his campaign to slump.

Responding to Kerry's comments, Gibbs said, "I enjoyed working for Senator Kerry and wish him the best. I believe he will make a great president of the United States."