Anatomy of a mass exit: Why Newt’s staff quit

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

His cam­paign al­ready reel­ing from self-in­flicted blows, for­mer House Speaker Newt Gingrich found his 2012 White House hopes hit by yet an­other dev­as­tat­ing set­back June 9 when sev­eral se­nior cam­paign staffers abruptly quit fol­low­ing a long­brew­ing dis­pute over sched­ul­ing and fundrais­ing.

The Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can im­me­di­ately vowed to stay in the race, but he will now have to do so with­out his cam­paign man­ager, his chief cam­paign strate­gist, his top spokesman and top aides over­see­ing op­er­a­tions in such crit­i­cal early-pri­mary states as New Hamp­shire and South Carolina.

“The sched­ul­ing I saw did not look like the path to vic­tory,” for­mer Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“I’ve left be­cause Newt has a dif­fer­ent idea about how to go for­ward. When cam­paigns and can­di­dates have dif­fer­ent ideas on that, peo­ple on the cam­paign have to leave,” said Mr. Tyler, who has worked for Mr. Gingrich for 10 years.

Bob Heck­man, a long­time pres­i­den­tial cam­paign op­er­a­tive, said he had “never seen a mass ex­o­dus any­where near this big or com­pre­hen­sive.”

De­spite stren­u­ous ob­jec­tions from se­nior cam­paign staffers, Mr. Gingrich va­ca­tioned with wife Cal­lista in­stead of par­tic­i­pat­ing in Ralph Reed’s Faith and Free­dom Coali­tion con­fer­ence over the June 4-5 week­end in Wash­ing­ton, at which vir­tu­ally all the other se­ri­ous 2012 nom­i­na­tion con­tenders spoke.

Se­nior aides said it was Mr. Gingrich’s re­luc­tance to de­vote enough time to rais­ing money on the phone and at fundrais­ing events around the coun­try that sealed their de­ci­sions to quit.

Gingrich cam­paign man­ager Rob John­son, who man­aged Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s re-elec­tion cam­paign last year, was an­other se­nior of­fi­cial who quit.

A third res­ig­na­tion came from Sam Daw­son, who served as chief strate­gist and se­nior ad­viser.

A crit­i­cal fourth res­ig­na­tion came from se­nior ad­viser David Car­ney, also a Perry ad­viser.

“The pro­fes­sional team came to the re­al­iza­tion that the direc­tion of the cam­paign they sought and Newt’s vi­sion for the cam­paign were in­com­pat­i­ble,” Mr. Car­ney told The Times.

The mass res­ig­na­tion fu­eled spec­u­la­tion about the pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions of Mr. Perry, who has ap­peared in re­cent days to move away from state­ments that he wouldn’t run in 2012. Mr. John­son and Mr. Car­ney re­tain close ties to Mr. Perry and would now be avail­able if the gov­er­nor changed his mind.

Cam­paign aides said the big prob­lem was money and that Mr. Gingrich wasn’t de­vot­ing enough time to call­ing po­ten­tial donors and ask­ing them to write checks. Nor did he ask lead­ing Repub­li­cans in the states to hold fundrais­ers for him.

It is also an irony that his wife, who was ex­pected to be an as­set in his cam­paign, turned out to be some­thing of an al­ba­tross in the eyes of his staff. She ruled out cer­tain modes of travel for her­self and her hus­band and other­wise kept him from cam­paign­ing, se­nior cam­paign aides said.

His top aides met with him three weeks ago and agreed to pre­pare a full-time fundrais­ing and stump­ing sched­ule for his ap­proval — a sched­ule that would have de­manded far more of his time than he was giv­ing, aides con­fided.

But in a June 8 meet­ing, Mr. Gingrich looked over the plan and in ef­fect dis­missed it, say­ing he would con­tinue to fo­cus on giv­ing speeches to large, wealthy au­di­ences as his main method of rais­ing money.

He flew to New Hamp­shire later that day. When he re­turned

“The sched­ul­ing I saw did not look like the path to vic­tory,” for­mer Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “I’ve left be­cause Newt has a dif­fer­ent idea about how to go for­ward. When cam­paigns and can­di­dates have dif­fer­ent ideas on that, peo­ple on the cam­paign have to leave,” said Mr. Tyler, who has worked for Mr. Gingrich for 10 years.

June 9, he met again with two of the top staffers — Mr. John­son and Mr. Daw­son — and told them he wasn’t go­ing to change. That de­ci­sion was what the se­nior staff had col­lec­tively agreed two weeks ear­lier would be the sig­nal for their exit.

Well-paid, full-time Gingrich cam­paign staff in Iowa, New Hamp­shire and South Carolina have long felt un­der­uti­lized and re­sent­ful that they were be­ing paid to do noth­ing while the clock was tick­ing on the can­di­date for whom they had cho­sen to work.

All told, 16 aides quit on June 9, in­clud­ing the en­tire full-time Iowa staff.

In­side the cam­paign, Mr. Gingrich was known to ig­nore ad­vice from his team. He also chose to va­ca­tion at a cru­cial time in his cam­paign and had dis­missed the Medi­care-re­form plan of a fel­low Repub­li­can, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wis­con­sin, as “right-wing so­cial en­gi­neer­ing.”

“The cam­paign was ba­si­cally a dys­func­tional mess, with Cal­lista at one time ve­to­ing com­mer­cial air travel for her and her hus­band on the cam­paign trail. He thinks he can win the nom­i­na­tion his way, but she’s the big­ger prob­lem,” a se­nior ad­viser con­fided.

The uni­ver­sal staff com­plaint — sur­pris­ing given Mr. Gingrich’s long po­lit­i­cal ca­reer — was his re­fusal to cam­paign full­time. “He was spend­ing time in­stead on his other projects,” an aide said.

Mr. Tyler said he doesn’t think the res­ig­na­tions will de­rail the Gingrich bid. “He’s a tough guy, and he can still win, and I hope he does,” he said.

“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,” Mr. Gingrich said in a state­ment emailed to re­porters af­ter news about the res­ig­na­tions broke.

Ad­vis­ers ex­pect him to give the two ma­jor speeches he had set for this month — ex­cerpts of which were shared with The Times.

The first was to be held June 12 at the Repub­li­can Jewish Fed­er­a­tion gala in Los An­ge­les, where the can­di­date planned to out­line a pro­posed over­haul of the State Depart­ment, in­clud­ing the For­eign Ser­vice and the Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment.

“We must read­ily see the pres­i­dent’s poli­cies for what they are: the de­lib­er­ate ap­pease­ment of Arab dic­ta­tors, and worse, the de­lib­er­ate ap­pease­ment of ter­ror­ist groups like Ha­mas, all at the risk of the de­struc­tion of Is­rael and the de­feat of the United States,” a speech ex­cerpt reads. “These poli­cies rep­re­sent a sharp break from the post-World War II po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus of pro­vid­ing un­wa­ver­ing sup­port to the state of Is­rael.”

Later this month, Mr. Gingrich plans to give a “ma­jor speech,” an aide con­fided, on re­form­ing the Fed­eral Re­serve.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

They will go on: Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hopeful Newt Gingrich, ac­com­pa­nied by his wife Cal­lista, speaks in Hud­son, N.H. on June 8, one day be­fore most of his cam­paign staff re­signed.

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