WASHINGTON— The entire top echelon of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign resigned on Thursday, a stunning mass exodus that left his bid for the Republican nomination in tatters. Gingrich publicly shrugged off the defections, vowing defiantly to remain a candidate.
"I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring," the former House speaker said in a posting to his Facebook page. "The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles." [See a slide show of GOP 2012 contenders.]
Rick Tyler, Gingrich's spokesman, said that he, campaign manager Rob Johnson and senior strategists had all quit, along with aides in the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Other officials said Gingrich was informed that his entire high command was quitting in a meeting at his headquarters in Washington. They cited differences over the direction of the campaign.
"We had a different vision for victory," Tyler told The Associated Press. "And since we couldn't resolve that difference, I didn't feel I could be useful in serving him."
He said Gingrich was not allowing enough time to campaign in key states.
Scott Rials, a longtime aide who joined the departure, said, "I think the world of him, but at the end of the day we just could not see a clear path to win, and there was a question of commitment." [Check out political cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.]
The upheaval in the campaign was likely to lead to a shakeup in the race for the party's presidential nomination, as well, as rivals reach out for disaffected staff, and possibly for donors who have been aligned with the former Georgia congressman.
Gingrich has long been viewed, by even his closest allies, as a fountain of policy ideas but a man who is unable to avoid speaking in ways that spark unwelcome controversy.
Even before the sudden departures of his top aides, Gingrich's campaign was off to a notably rocky start. Within days of formally announcing he would run, he was assailed by conservatives for criticizing a plan to remake Medicare that Republicans pushed through the House.
He telephoned the author of the plan, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to apologize but did not back off his objections.
Within days, he had dropped from sight, embarking on a cruise to the Greek Isles with his wife, Callista, while rivals for the Republican nomination kept up their campaign appearances. [Vote now: Who is your pick for the 2012 GOP nomination?]
He returned to the United States earlier in the week to confront a rebellion that had been brewing for some time among the senior echelon of his campaign.
While Gingrich told his now-departed aides he would remain in the race, he faces formidable obstacles in assembling a new team in time to compete in a campaign that's well under way.
Most immediately, he is scheduled to participate in a debate next Monday in New Hampshire.
Johnson and another key aide, strategist David Carney, joined Gingrich's campaign after working as senior political staff members for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry ruled out running for the White House earlier in the year, but more recently has said he might reconsider. It was not known whether his former aides were interested in returning to him.
"Nothing has changed," the governor's spokesman, Mark Miner, said in an interview on Thursday. "The governor is focused on the legislative session."
Gingrich, 67, last served in public office more than a decade ago. He resigned as speaker of the House after two terms following an unexpectedly close mid-term election in 1998 in which Republicans gained far fewer seats than he had predicted.
In the years since, he has established a virtual one-man think tank, publishing books and speaking publicly.
In addition to Tyler, Johnson and Rials, aides who quit include senior adviser Sam Dawson, South Carolina director Katon Dawson, Iowa director Craig Schoenfeld and New Hampshire director Dave Carney.