Gingrich’s Presidential Bid Reels With Mass Resignation of Aides

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich vowed to continue his campaign amid skepticism that he can recover from resignations of his top staff members and lagging fundraising.

Gingrich, 67, is scheduled to give a foreign policy speech in California tomorrow, the day before he is to appear in a televised candidate debate in New Hampshire.

“I don’t think Newt is going to be president, and I don’t think he is going be the nominee,” said Stanley S. Hubbard, chief executive officer of Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., a longtime Gingrich supporter and donor who is backing former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s presidential bid.

“It’s not realistic,” Hubbard said in an interview yesterday. “I think he is all finished.” He added, “If he is smart, he will go back to American Solutions.”

American Solutions for Winning the Future is an advocacy group Gingrich established in 2007 that among other things focuses on education, energy issues and economic matters.

In Iowa, where the lead-off presidential caucuses are scheduled for February, Republican Governor Terry Branstad said he agreed with that sentiment.

“His campaign’s in real trouble,” Branstad said yesterday, according to Radio Iowa, during a taping of “Iowa Press,” a public affairs program on public television. “Whether this is the end for the campaign or not, I don’t know, but it doesn’t look very good.”

Mass Resignation

The struggling start to Gingrich’s campaign worsened with the June 9 departures of his national co-chairman, campaign manager, longtime spokesman and aides in states that vote early in the nomination race. The mass resignation resulted from discord over strategy, the role of the candidate’s wife and money problems, aides and supporters said.

Separately, Gingrich has sought and received a 45-day extension from the Federal Election Commission allowing him to wait until July 25 to file his personal financial disclosure form. The report is expected to disclose his personal income and the status of a line of credit of as much as $500,000 at Tiffany & Co. (TIF), the New York-based jewelry store. It also may shed light on income Gingrich earns from the mix of private endeavors he established since leaving Congress in 1999.

The campaign’s implosion heightens doubts about whether Gingrich will survive for much longer in the presidential contest.

“I think he’d make a great president,” said Rick Tyler, the campaign spokesman who has worked for Gingrich for more than a decade and was one of those who resigned. “So far, he has not made a very good candidate.”

Strategists Resign

Others who resigned included national campaign manager Rob Johnson; Craig Schoenfeld, Gingrich’s executive director in Iowa; and Katon Dawson, the former state Republican chairman in South Carolina, said David Carney, a top New Hampshire-based strategist for the campaign who also quit.

“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 said in an e-mail.

The national co-chairman for Gingrich’s bid, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, switched presidential camps after word of the resignations surfaced. Pawlenty’s campaign said in a June 9 statement that Perdue “will join its national efforts.”

Gingrich responded to the exodus by saying he intends to remain in the race.

“There is a fundamental strategic difference between the traditional consulting community and the kind of campaign I want to run,” he told reporters yesterday outside his home in McLean, Virginia. “Now, we’ll find out over the next year who is right.”

‘Idea-Oriented Campaign’

Gingrich said he will run an “idea-oriented campaign of substance” that would make greater use of the Internet and grassroots supporters.

“In the next few weeks you’ll see us doing it in new and dynamic and much more open ways than the traditional consultants are comfortable with,” he said.

Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker from Georgia, declared his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on May 11. Days later, he was on the defensive within his party after he referred to a proposal to privatize Medicare offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, as “radical change” and a form of “right-wing social engineering” on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The comments drew criticism from other Republicans, and Gingrich called Ryan to apologize.

Greek Islands Cruise

Gingrich, who returned to campaigning June 8 in New Hampshire following a cruise vacation in the Greek islands that caused discord within the campaign, also had been distracted by stories about running up a bill of as much as $500,000 with Tiffany & Co.

The pace of his schedule frustrated staff members, who believed he needed to spend more time fundraising and campaigning in early voting states, some of those who resigned said.

The transition from Gingrich’s lifestyle before the campaign, such as using private planes for his heavy travel schedule, to the life of a candidate flying on commercial airlines has been difficult for him and his wife, Callista, a Washington political fundraiser who is close to the campaign said on condition of anonymity.

Wrangling within the Gingrich campaign stemmed in part from control over the schedule exerted by Gingrich’s wife, according to a former aide who requested anonymity when discussing internal campaign matters.

‘Meet the Press’

Top fundraisers began defecting after the “Meet the Press” interview, which raised concerns about his ability to convey a disciplined campaign message, according to a Republican strategist with knowledge of the campaign’s finances who requested anonymity in discussing the matter.

Gingrich has racked up a seven-figure campaign debt since then, according to the strategist, and has lost most of his major campaign bundlers, who are responsible for soliciting money from a wide circle of donors.

Commenting on the campaign’s status, Schoenfeld said, “There was concern about the ability to be able to sustain an operation in Iowa, much less a national campaign.”

Gingrich scheduled no public events in Iowa for this month, said Schoenfeld, even as state Republicans gear up for a mid- August straw poll in which a strong showing might help his nomination prospects.

Staff members were also frustrated by his decision to screen a documentary he and his wife produced and to hold a book signing during a campaign trip this week in New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary, the former aide said. That time, they said, would be better used for campaigning.

To contact the reporters on this story: John McCormick in Chicago at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net; Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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