WASHINGTON — Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign imploded Thursday as his top advisers banded together and resigned, setting off a further exodus of aides and supporters and battering his hopes of a political comeback.
Gingrich vowed to carry on, saying that he was “committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring.”
But the departure of more than a dozen aides, including his entire Iowa operation, left him, for now at least, crippled in his ability to do much more than appear at debates or other public forums at a time when his main rivals were busy raising money and building organizations in crucial states. And it injected fresh uncertainty into the Republican nominating contest amid continued talk that further candidates might jump in.
Gingrich’s senior strategists confronted him Thursday after he returned from a two-week vacation with his wife, Callista, which included a cruise through the Greek isles. Gingrich defended his holiday as a chance to “get away and think,” but aides chastised him, they said, for lacking the discipline to run a focused presidential campaign that could overcome rising doubts about his candidacy.
“The professional team came to the realization that the direction of the campaign they sought and Newt’s vision for the campaign were incompatible,” said David Carney, a senior strategist who was among those who submitted resignations Thursday afternoon.
Many Republicans had long seen Gingrich as something of a vanity candidate — not really expecting to win the party’s nomination but viewing the race as an opportunity to draw attention to his policy ideas, books and documentaries. His aides described him and his wife as not doing enough to dedicate themselves to the hard work and the unglamorous aspects of running for president.
For some candidates, the departure of an entrenched team of advisers could provide an opportunity to regroup, but Gingrich could face tougher going. His aides said he is struggling to raise money, recruit staff and be seen as a top-tier candidate.
Former Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, a national co-chairman of the Gingrich campaign, withdrew his endorsement and said he would support Tim Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota.
The shakeup surrounding Gingrich shined a new light on the intentions of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who is taking a serious look at joining the Republican presidential race.