Political Animal


June 10, 2011 8:00 AM What prompted the Gingrich exodus

By Steve Benen

Yesterday, all of Newt Gingrich’s senior campaign aides resigned en masse. Soon after, the disgraced former Speaker’s entire staff in Iowa quit, too. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), one of Gingrich’s national campaign co-chairman, announced soon after he’s jumped ship and endorsed Tim Pawlenty.

So, what happened, exactly? Did the delusion that Gingrich was a serious presidential contender catch up with the entire campaign operation all of a sudden?

It appears that Gingrich’s two-week vacation pushed his team over the edge.

Mr. Gingrich’s senior strategists confronted him on Thursday after he returned from a two-week vacation with his wife, Callista, which included a cruise through the Greek isles. Mr. 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. […]

Several advisers pleaded with Mr. Gingrich not to go on the vacation trip, an aide said, but Mrs. Gingrich wanted to go. The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal workings of the campaign, said, “We have a spouse who controls the schedule.”

The official line was that the two-week vacation had been long-planned, but yesterday, aides said the Gingriches chose to simply get away for a while after a rough couple of weeks.

The candidate, we also learned yesterday, simply didn’t want to endure the unglamorous aspects of being a presidential candidate — he figures debate performances, media appearances, and social media outreach would be largely sufficient. His aides wanted him to do actual work.

Newt didn’t quite see it that way. On Wednesday, for example, campaign strategists talked to Gingrich on a conference call while the candidate was in New Hampshire. Gingrich was in the first primary state campaigning, right? Wrong. He was in the Granite State to promote a documentary he and his wife made about Pope John Paul II.

There were also financial concerns. Gingrich’s fundraising has suffered, but the candidate nevertheless likes to spend freely, chartering a fancy jet for a three-day swing through Iowa last month, at a cost of $40,000.

Maybe Gingrich can regroup and bounce back? Please. To get back on track, Gingrich would need a top-notch campaign operation, financial resources, a tenacious work ethic, and an ability to actually win people over.

His campaign is over, whether he keeps running or not.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Chris S. on June 10, 2011 8:05 AM:

    Callista Gingrich, thank you for your service to the Republic.

  • jprichva on June 10, 2011 8:09 AM:

    Good riddance to the gasbag.

  • c u n d gulag on June 10, 2011 8:10 AM:

    'My campaign cannot tolerate threats from staffers who might disrupt my comfortable world.
    The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness when my wife and I went on another vacation.
    They fired timidly at me and my wife first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods - and the SOB's quit on me.
    Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles as they move on to other candidates.
    But surely they had thought they had killed me off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of my staffers vicious onslaught.
    But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia and resignations emerged Gingrich, I, Newt - once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces by donating to what's left of my candidacy.
    And I, Sir Newt, fight on!!!
    Oh, hey, no matter what happens, don't forget to keep sending money!”

  • bignose on June 10, 2011 8:12 AM:

    Slightly OT, but...

    This is Rick Perry's moment. The GOP field is starting to gel, and if he waits, he will never get momentum, and will miss out on key endorsements that other candidates will pick up.

    He can easily come off as the GOP's knight in shining armor, appeal to the base and TPer's but still come off as less crazy than Bachmann - That's probably the way he should play it. And that might take him to the convention with little scrutiny.

    After that, though, he'd be toast.

  • j on June 10, 2011 8:14 AM:

    I heard a rumor about a GOP rep from Florida who was on an overseas tour (In Italy) apparently a foreign service aide )
    was accompanying him & the aide was recalled because the congressman's wife said he was not allowed to be with women.
    Anyone have the rest of the story?

  • John Dillinger on June 10, 2011 8:14 AM:

    You can tell an unserious campaign when its spends money on luxuries. See Guliani, Rudy, 2008.

  • sparrow on June 10, 2011 8:17 AM:

    But, but...Gingrich said he was frugal.

  • walt on June 10, 2011 8:18 AM:

    The reptilian Newt loves TV but not so much the relentless grind of campaigning. His career has been a joke since the Clinton impeachment and it was unlikely renewed focus would endear voters to someone with his messy personal life. At 67, Newt is long past the age where raw ambition can mask personal flaws. Indeed, his ambition was always his most significant flaw as a candidate. Ambition requires a "lean and hungry look" and the portly Gingrich simply looked like a cartoon version of the average American. His departure, foreordained, suggests that TV was his real enemy. Whether it's Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, or Newt, being overweight carries a considerable cost both in terms of image and sheer physical stamina.

  • DAY on June 10, 2011 8:28 AM:

    Oh, kudos, gulag! excellent channelling of the Newt.

    During your spare moments (alas, too many. . .)polish a piece of Pawlenty, and a few paragraphs of Mitt. A challenge, to be sure, but doing the GuanoNutz gals Palin & Bachmann is too easy for such an active scribe.

  • JCB on June 10, 2011 8:28 AM:

    Has it occurred to anyone that the now-infamous communication by his staffer (campaign manager?) might have itself been a spoof of Newt, and that when it was written, the staffer was already disgusted with the Newt's bombastic pomposity and getting ready to bail?

  • berttheclock on June 10, 2011 8:38 AM:

    When one thinks of the mess of RepuG politicos ruining Florida, think of a Floridian RepuG male voter who called C-Span, this AM, to say, this is nothing but the Media trying to discredit Newt. He went on to say the Media wants Romney, but, Newt will give America a real choice and Newt will Win. There really is something in the polluted water in Florida.

  • Citizen Alan on June 10, 2011 8:38 AM:

    So Newt has no real interest in governing and largely views the political arena as an excuse to live extravagantly on other people's money? How is that different from any other Republican?

  • c u n d gulag on June 10, 2011 8:49 AM:

    Sadly I'm still unemployed, so I have waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time on my hands.

    But doing anything on Pawlenthy Dim Tim and Reversable-Mitten is like trying to jazz up cottage cheese.

    No matter what you add in there, at the end of the day, it's still cottage cheese...

  • j on June 10, 2011 9:04 AM:

    The repub rep on a trip to Italy was Forida's Bill Young, and the woman officially accompanying him was pulled off the trip because his wife said he was not allowed to be with women???????

  • Morbo on June 10, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Look, Callista is getting a little long in the tooth. How do you expect him to meet wife #4 if you won't let him cruise for babes while on a cruise?

  • T2 on June 10, 2011 9:13 AM:

    "still come off as less crazy than Bachmann" NO, NO, a thousand times NO. Rick Perry will make Bachmann sound normal. For those of you not familiar with the TX Gov, he is not only toying with Texas seceding from the Union, he has gone off into the deep end of Evangelical. Go, right now, to Talking Points Memo and read his statement regarding his Response, an Aug 6 day of "prayer and fasting" he is sponsoring for all the US governors. Dig a little deeper and you'll find some hard-core anti-gay, anti-minority religious organizations providing the funding for the Response.

    Once America gets the full view of this guy, all but 23% will run in the opposite direction.

  • bignose on June 10, 2011 9:17 AM:

    "Once America gets the full view of this guy, all but 23% will run in the opposite direction"

    Again, I don't think that will happen until after the convention.

    Unless you keep harping on it. :)

  • flounder on June 10, 2011 9:46 AM:

    I wonder if the Gingrich documentary about Pope JP II talks about the time that Gingrich met the man, then went back to his hotel, snuck out of the room he shared with his wife, and went and had sex with his secretary (who is now the current Mrs. Gingrich)? I imagine that many presidential candidates/documentary film-makers have been inspired to adultery by meeting the Pope!

  • Anon on June 10, 2011 10:02 AM:

    Sadly, Perry probably would be a cinch to land the nomination at this point. TPers have no long term memory so they don't recall he was a fairly moderate, unremarkable governor who rather shrewdly and shamelessly about-faced when he read the tea leaves (sorry) in '08. He's got both the evangelical and the tea party bases locked up then and doesn't have the major baggage that all other candidates seem to at this point. And the media will portray him as a Clinton-esque white knight coming to the rescue since the Republican field is such a disaster at this point, and they want a horserace.

    Hopefully voters will remember what happened the last time they brought a Texan into the White House.

  • Anon on June 10, 2011 10:05 AM:

    Regarding Newt, how long after this utter disaster of a campaign will it be before he's back on Sunday morning TV again?

  • jpeckjr on June 10, 2011 10:16 AM:

    I think we all knew the third Mrs. Gingrich would be a problem for Newt, if only because she is the THIRD Mrs. Gingrich.

  • T2 on June 10, 2011 10:19 AM:

    Bignose and Anon, Perry's record (horrid as it is) is mostly a local thing....I'll cede that.
    But once he gets on the Big Stage and starts talking, the country will get the point very quickly.
    I think his Response (if it even happens) will get big coverage nationally (as he will likely announce his candidacy prior to that) and folks across the nation will get their first taste of what a really crazy, Tea Party and Evangelical Pandering, politician looks like.
    That said, and given the state of today's Republican Party and it's current candidates,
    I agree that a Perry/Bachmann ticket is a real possibility. I used to think it'd be Perry/Palin, but I think Sarah's best days are behind her.

  • swellsman on June 10, 2011 10:25 AM:

    Man, this is pathetic. I've said all along that the only reason Newt threw his hat into the ring this year is because he needs to be seen to be a viable Republican presidential candidate in order to continue to get publicity and speaking engagements. And after so many years of publicly toying with the idea, Newt is at that age where if he doesn't run everyone will know he never intends to run.

    But you'd think he would at least have tried to make it look like he was serious about this thing. Instead he's doing what he always does: he's promoting a new documentary (or a book, or a public appearance, or something) that can net him some more dough-re-mi.

    Don't get me wrong - Newt would love to be President if only someone would give it to him. But if the decision is between working hard and (almost certainly) failing, or continuing to line his pockets, Newt'll pick Door No. 2 every time.

  • biggerbox on June 10, 2011 10:26 AM:

    Newt is nestled right in his sweet spot, playing the same game as the Boreal Narcissus, Sarah Palin. It's MUCH better to pretend to be a candidate than to actually seriously run. You get to be on TV a lot, and mouth off, and get publicity for all your profit-making enterprises, and you don't have to work too hard. And, lucky for Newt, he doesn't have an NBC deadline like Trump, so he can keep playing this game for a while yet, ensuring that he'll have years worth of Sunday morning TV appearances ahead.

  • ManOutOfTime on June 10, 2011 10:34 AM:

    @gulag - How's a smart guy (or girl?) like you unemployed? Why not just write a book? You're insightful and funny as hell.

  • DAY on June 10, 2011 11:13 AM:

    i'll second ManOutOfTime.

    Newt had his shot (pun intended) at the presidency, back he was third in line (as Speaker of the House).

  • c u n d gulag on June 10, 2011 11:13 AM:


    I really should think about writing a humerous parody about next years Presidential elecion.

    But, sadly, with people like Newt, Ryan, Palin, Bachmann, Santorum, Rudi, Perry, etc., truth trumps fiction.

  • c u n d gulag on June 10, 2011 11:15 AM:

    And thank you, too.

    PS: I loved the line about Krauthammer! LOLOLOL!!!

  • MuddyLee on June 10, 2011 11:18 AM:

    You mean the cruise to the Greek islands wasn't part of a study of the Greek financial crisis or an info gathering exercise to determine how bad Euro-socialism is? Think back to the 1990s when Gingrich and Clinton were having their battles. Who looks smarter now - Newt or Bill?

  • The Fool on June 10, 2011 11:35 AM:

    Newt Gingrich: classic pussy-whipped Republican. LOL.

  • Cranky Observer on June 10, 2011 11:37 AM:

    I despise the not-very-smart Gingrich, but I am a bit of a loss as to why any candidate for the 201_2_ Presidential nomination needs to be working the hustings at this point in time. Look at McCain's campaign in 2008 vs. Fred Thompson (in early, out early) and Romney (running full-time for 27 years). There just isn't that much there there at this point (before even the phony Iowa straw poll), and Gingrich's theory of focusing more on insider and DC media village-friendly events sounds reasonable to me.


    That's not to say Gingrich isn't stupid, lazy, and a grifter, because he is clearly the first and probably the second and third. But those points don't have much bearing on this situation (or on running a successful campaign for President for that matter).

  • TCinLA on June 10, 2011 11:58 AM:

    “We have a spouse who controls the schedule.”

    She seems to pretty much control everything else, like Newtie's new choice of religion. I guess under that Stepford Wife exterior beats the heart of a Borgia. It must, since little miss "Good Catholic Girl" got her start with Newtie as his mistress while he was attacking Clinton over the Lewinsky Affair. I don't see what she has over him, but maybe she doesn't just lie there in the sack like a bag of wilted potatoes, like most Republican women do when they're procreatin' (this is why so many Republican men get in trouble over sex, they meet women who actually know what sex is and they go wild like the kid who's been denied sugar all his life).

  • Sean Scallon on June 10, 2011 12:17 PM:

    "The candidate, we also learned yesterday, simply didn’t want to endure the unglamorous aspects of being a presidential candidate — he figures debate performances, media appearances, and social media outreach would be largely sufficient. His aides wanted him to do actual work."

    In other words Newt has no desire to visit senior citizen centers in Iowa nor do coffee klatches in New Hampshire. That is beneath the man who "ideas everyone must hear". Instead he wants his face on a giant video screen. Talk about Orwellian.

  • Patrick on June 10, 2011 1:23 PM:

    The only time I was ever happy to see Newt was in the movie "Borat".

  • Paul on June 11, 2011 7:12 AM:

    I don't understand why even liberal analysts are not willing to say it--- Gingrich and Palin (and others) are in it for the money, they do not care about actually being nominated, they care about the amount of funds flowing in to keep them fat and happy. It is a kind of political whoredom.

  • TinaBRichie on November 09, 2011 5:08 PM: