Top Newt Gingrich Staffers Quit, Gov. Rick Perry May Run

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 9, 2011   |   4:16PM   |   Washington, DC

In what could be a sign he may withdraw from the presidential race, several top staffers for the Republican presidential campaign of former House Speaker newt Gingrich resigned en masse Thursday afternoon.

Gingrich 2012 campaign manager Rob Johnson quit along with top strategists Sam Dawson and Dave Carney, and spokesman Rick Tyler quit as well. Meanwhile consultants Katon Dawson in South Carolina and Craig Schoenfeld in Iowa tendered their resignations as well. They quit because they wanted to promote what they told Politico would be a “different vision” for the campaign.

Although sources have told several media outlets Gingrich plans to stay in the race, the mass resignation of his top staffers would deal the pro-life former congressman a massive blow as he tries to overcome what has been an inauspicious start to the race. Gingrich botched the rollout of his campaign and quickly upset Republicans by attacking Rep. Paul Ryan over his plan to reform Medicare. Gingrich was late in apologizing for the attacks, that undercut his support with conservatives and led some observers to predict he would definitely not become the nominee.

“We just had a different direction in which we wanted to take the campaign,” one source said.

UPDATE: Gingrich has responded via a post on his Facebook wall:  “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.”

According to Politico, the staffer indicated Gingrich was intent on using technology and the media to run his campaign and eschewing the traditional grassroots politicking needed in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. They said Gingrich would not be able to run and sustain a presidential campaign that could garner him the nomination without spending significant time on the ground.

The Washington Post indicated the advisors held a meeting in Gingrich’s Washington office on Tuesday while Gingrich and his wife spent two weeks cruising the Mediterranean instead of campaigning. Tyler said taking the trip shortly after significant bad press confirmed to the staffers that Gingrich was not interested in heavy campaigning or reaching the grassroots.

“When the campaign and the candidate disagree on the path, they’ve got to part ways,” said Rick Tyler.

The resignations are a surprise because Dawson and Tyler have advised for Gingrich for years and Johnson, who ran the gubernatorial campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry was seen as a sign the campaign was moving forward.

Conservative and mainstream media reporters speculated and provided considerable evidence that Perry is likely to benefit from the departures and that he is closer to declaring he will run for the Republican nomination than ever before — even though he has leaned against it in the past.

Jim Geraghty of National Review cited three separate GOP consultants familiar with Perry’s intentions as signaling his is inching closer to running.

“Knew this was coming… I bet Perry is in this thing sooner rather than later – these guys aren’t jumping off without somewhere else to land,” one said.

Another added, “Gingrich was clearly melting down, and Perry is clearly gearing up, so it was time for the switcheroo.”

“He thinks there is a void [in the current field of candidates], and that he might be uniquely positioned to fill that void,” said one Perry confidant who talked to the governor last week, according to the Wall St. Journal.

Perry has pleased pro-life advocates in Texas many times with signing pro-life legislation — most recently signing an ultrasound bill allowing women to see them before an abortion and hopefully changing their minds on it.  He has been strongly supported by pro-life groups. Perry supported or signed into law the Women’s Right to Know Act and the Prenatal Protection Act in 2003, parental consent law in 2005, and funding for alternatives to abortions in 2007 and 2009.