Newt Gingrich’s Republican presidential run was supposed to reach back to his Georgia roots, with a campaign run out of Buckhead.
He has never stepped foot in his Atlanta office – and now may never do so.
“There were disagreements about where the campaign needed to go, and [I] felt this was the right move. And wish him well,” said Scott Rials of Atlanta, Gingrich’s longtime ally and one several key aides who resigned en masse on Thursday.
Others included Gingrich’s key operatives in the first three state’s in next year’s presidential gauntlet.
The list, said Rials, included campaign manager Rob Johnson; Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s long-time spokesman; David Carney in New Hampshire; strategist Sam Dawson; Katon Dawson, a South Carolina consultant; and Craig Schoenfeld, Gingrich’s man in Iowa.
Rials said Gingrich intends to stay in the race. “That is my understanding,” Rials said. At 4 p.m., the Gingrich campaign dispatched the following quote from the candidate:
“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.”
But exactly how serious a candidate he remains is highly questionable.
Rials said Gingrich’s recent Mediterranean cruise – which ended this week – was a factor, “but no bigger than several other things.”
After a debut in Macon at the state Republican convention, Gingrich’s campaign immediately ran into trouble when, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he criticized U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to revamp Medicare – an effort that had just been endorsed by the House Republicans he once led.
A revelation that he and his wife Callista had once had a bill at Tiffany’s that could have been as high as $500,000 only served to underline Gingrich’s problem with the GOP’s evangelical base – his three marriages.
Gingrich was the only major Republican contender who skipped last week’s gathering of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition last week. Citing his previously scheduled vacation, Gingrich offered a video greeting instead.
Rials, who served as an aide to Gov. Sonny Perdue, said the split with his mentor wasn’t rancorous.
“It wasn’t a happy occasion, but it wasn’t an angry occasion. It was a professional disagreement. We shook hands and agreed that that was just a difference. Really, no one is mad at him, except that many of us see it as a missed opportunity. He doesn’t see it that way,” Rials said.
“I do wish him well. Brett Favre is my hero. But I’m betting on [Aaron] Rodgers if I’m going with the Green Bay Packers’ future,” Rials said.
Among Gingrich’s old friends and supporters in Georgia was Bill Byrne, the former Cobb County Commission chairman.
“When on a national news station, Newt slammed Congressman Ryan and his proposal as right wing extremist, at that point in time his campaign ended,” Byrne said. “And I think if you watch any of the polling data from any source — Republican, Democrat, Independent — Newt never breaks in to double digits.
“Of the announced candidates he’s always been at the very bottom and the last poll I saw yesterday showed Herman Cain has passed him. Political people realize his campaign is over with and he has self-destructed. Those who signed up now realize that,” Byrne said.
Though he remains a Virginia resident, Gingrich’s campaign was to have a heavily Georgia flavor. Gov. Nathan Deal, former Gov. Sonny Perdue, and former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller were named the official heads of the former U.S. House speaker’s campaign.
“The governor understands the speaker and his wife are taking personal time together at the moment. He has not yet had the opportunity to speak with him as of late on this. We don’t want to comment until the governor has had the chance to speak to the speaker,” said Stephanie Mayfield, the governor’s spokeswoman.
A collapsing Gingrich campaign would free Deal in particular to move to greener pastures. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in Atlanta for a major fund-raiser next week. Another candidate, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, is expected in the state later this month. And Herman Cain is actually running his campaign out of Stockbridge, Ga.
Georgia Democrats could not help but chortle. This was the first line of a press release issued in reaction:
Campaign staffers of Newt Gingrich’s flailing presidential bid walked off the job en masse today, demonstrating the power of organized labor and teamwork while serving in a hostile work environment.
- By Jim Galloway and Aaron Gould Sheinin, Political Insider