Gingrich Campaign Regroups After Senior Team Quits

Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says he is staying in the race. On Thursday, 16 members of his staff resigned. That number includes the entire senior team.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

It's Morning Edition From NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Newt Gingrich says his presidential campaign will begin anew this coming weekend. Whatever he does, he will have to do it without his entire top campaign staff. They all resigned yesterday. NPR's Don Gonyea has been covering the Gingrich campaign. He's in our studios - live.

Don, good morning.

DON GONYEA: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What caused so many staffers to say goodbye?

GONYEA: Do you want the official answer?

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Give us 10 seconds of that, then we'll go on to...

GONYEA: Well, I'll give you about four words of that - three words. Differences of opinion.

INSKEEP: OK. Oh, yeah. So I've seen statements. They said, well, Gingrich's vision of the campaign is not the same as those.

GONYEA: Here's what it is. He essentially had a different vision of his campaign. I mean, it was differences of opinion. But he was also unmanageable as the candidate.

He has these people working for him - his campaign managers - press secretary, who'd been with him a decade. A lot of people who believe in Newt Gingrich, what he stands for, and were looking for the day when he might run for president. They got onboard.

But this campaign has stumbled, right from the beginning. Self immolated is the way one person described it to me. They had that first week in Iowa where he spent the whole time in this battle with Paul Ryan, one of the rising stars...

INSKEEP: (Unintelligible) fellow Republican.

GONYEA: ...having called his Medicare plan radical, right wing engineering. That's not how you endear yourself to the Republican base.

We found out about the $250,000 to $500,000 tab at Tiffany's. He got glitter dumped on his head.

But he soldiered on. He soldiered on. And the staff was all with him. They thought we've been doing well at town halls. We've been getting good crowds. In Iowa and New Hampshire it's all about what happens on the ground. It's not what people at NPR or wherever, New York Times or Politico. It's not what they...

INSKEEP: Fox News (unintelligible).

GONYEA: Fox News, what they say.

Then, after that bumpy first week, he goes off on a cruise with his wife, to the Greek islands.

INSKEEP: So he's not on the ground anymore. That was their complaint.

GONYEA: He's not only not on the ground, he's gone. And the sense among the campaign is what's going on here? Why are we doing this work if he's not willing to do the work?

He came back. There were discussions. There was a sense that he wasn't going to be a guy on the ground working this hard. That it was going to be a different kind of campaign. They walked.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now, Don, whenever this happens, it's generally bad. I mean, we've seen a lot of campaigns have shakeups. Even when the candidate himself initiates the shakeup and says he needs new help, it's generally bad. It means that the campaign is not working, at a sort of basic mechanical level.

GONYEA: Exactly.

WERTHEIMER: I think that it was completely clear that they thought Gingrich was not doing the work when the Iowa people walked, because that is really the ground level of a campaign.

GONYEA: And he lost his entire Iowa paid campaign staff. So you can say he's at zero in Iowa. He's actually at less than zero in Iowa.

INSKEEP: Should we mention that other candidates have lost campaign aides over the years and recovered? John McCain is one that was much mentioned in the past 24 hours.

WERTHEIMER: Well, I wouldn't exactly say he recovered.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GONYEA: But almost exactly four years ago his campaign, in the primaries, looked dead. He stripped it down. Got rid of just about everybody, except for a few loyalists and was riding around in a car and flying Southwest Airlines with a single aide, with his luggage bag.

But he did that and it was driven by money problems. This one is a mutiny or a Newtiny(ph), as some people have called it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Let me ask...

WERTHEIMER: Does it mean that his campaign is - has - does it mean it's over? Is Gingrich is this the end of Newt?

GONYEA: Not in his view. He says the campaign becomes anew in California, of all places, this weekend with an event.

INSKEEP: I just want to ask. Ariļæ½Fleischer, former White House press secretary, tweeting over the weekend: Newt Gingrich is a good dinner speaker, did a lot for the Republican Party, but it was always a stretch to see him as president.

People have to be asking - everybody except Newt, at the top of the campaign, has resigned. And some people have to be asking if the right guy resigned in that mass resignation?

GONYEA: It's interesting. Some of those staffers who left him yesterday, who quit, praised him as a great idea guy, as a great American thinker, politician. But they said he just was not ready to do the serious hard work of a campaign.

INSKEEP: Don, thanks very much.

GONYEA: It's my pleasure.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Don Gonyea. He's covering the campaign of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who lost his entire top campaign staff yesterday.

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