Top Gingrich Aides Resign, Leaving Campaign in Question
Top aides to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have resigned en masse, Fox News has learned, imperiling the Republican's 2012 presidential campaign at a crucial time.
Among the senior staff members Gingrich is losing are spokesman Rick Tyler and campaign manager Rob Johnson, along with other strategists. Insiders say Gingrich and senior aides were unable to agree on the direction of the campaign.
On his Facebook page Thursday afternoon, Gingrich assured supporters he remains in the race.
"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," he wrote, referring to a foreign policy address he's scheduled to deliver Sunday evening.
But the exodus puts the former House speaker, who already had been struggling to rank in early GOP primary polls, in a tough spot. The conservative icon was one of the first major candidates to officially launch his campaign, but several other GOP heavyweights have followed suit in recent weeks and gone aggressively after President Obama.
Gingrich ran into trouble early on when he bluntly criticized House Republicans' plan for overhauling Medicare. He has since walked that back, but disagreements continued to fester on his team over the message and strategy of the campaign. Aides said the team was increasingly concerned Gingrich did not appear willing or able to put in the time needed to run a viable campaign. In one clash, they had begged him not to leave the trail for a Mediterranean cruise with his wife -- advice he ignored.
Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who was a co-chairman of Gingrich's campaign until Thursday, has now joined former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's team.
"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," he said in a statement.
The mass exodus could signal a potential presidential campaign by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Johnson ran Perry's campaign for governor while Dave Carney, another strategist who left the Gingrich camp, also has very close ties to the Texas governor.
Another potential candidate is ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. But while those possible contenders make up their minds and Gingrich determines how to proceed with a shell of a campaign team, other Republicans are charging ahead. Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, among others, have all formally launched their campaigns and started hitting key primary states.
Gingrich, meanwhile, lost his top operatives in three important primary and caucus battlegrounds -- according to a person involved in internal discussions, his leadership teams in South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa have all resigned their respective posts.
The source said those resignations came following disagreements about how to use campaign resources including the candidate's time. The resignations are being taken under consideration by Gingrich.
Fox News' Carl Cameron and Steve Brown contributed to this report.